Fan-Casting and Producing “The Last Full Measure”

I. Opening Thoughts

At first, I was going to title this article “What Would it Take to Make The Last Full Measure?”, but we all know what it would take: money, lots and lots of money. We know the interest level is there, after seeing the glowing reviews and remarks regarding the release of the Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut, as well as the Civil War’s 150th Anniversary being commemorated from 2011-2015. The problem we have here is the immense budget it would take to finance, somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million, the same amount it took to make the prequel. With Ted Turner losing so much money at the initial box office failure, he is probably not interested in taking another gamble, because if he was, he might have done so already. Perhaps, if someone came up with around $30 million, he would match it, but of course, that person or group is elusive.

The only way this film gets made is if we prove to that mystery man out there that this project can be successful after all, either as a three-hour movie (any more than that would spell doom, if it does not already) or television mini-series event. With To Appomattox, an upcoming creation to television, promising to be all the rage in 2013, I would lean towards a feature film. This has its trouble, and will no doubt be mocked by the same people who balked at a three-hour and forty minute Gods and Generals in 2003. Would this project too, be killed before it even reached the silver screen? Or would it be looked upon as the necessary completion to the all-important Civil War trilogy, a more fitting statement? The one and only way to find out is to get the ball rolling and the juices flowing, which I hope this article will somehow do. We all know that getting the cast of thousands would not be difficult because of the never-ending devotion of Civil War reenactors, who pay their own way just to help accomplish something in the name of education. Aside from the aforementioned money, there is also a problem with the casting, because of course, as fans of the two films, we would want to see actor reprisals. Due to the age gap between films, this is easier said than done, but I shall elaborate further later on.

II. Quotables

“…I sat next to [Ted] Turner all day, when we filmed the Vaudeville sequence [in Gods and Generals], that he made his cameo in, and so I talked to him pretty much all day, and one of the things he said was, “If we break even, or even if we don’t lose too much money, as soon as we’re finished, we’ll start The Last Full Measure,” but of course, it lost a lot of money. I’ve often thought, even while we were filming it, that it would have made a better mini-series, like Band of Brothers, because there is so much information. It’s great for someone who loves the Civil War, who is an aficionado, and reenactors will watch anything, and even though I’m not a reenactor, I will watch anything on the Civil War.”Patrick Gorman (March 26, 2011)

“…the thing is, there were mistakes made with Gods and Generals that I would not allow to happen again. If a film is going to be made from The Last Full Measure, I will have much more involvement or there simply won’t be a film…That’s the other thing I hear, and I get letters on this literally every day, people want to know (which was why I put the note on my website) when the third movie is coming out, and it’s like they’re waiting for the shoe to drop because the story needs to be completed. I’ve had people chew me out and say, “Why aren’t you making the third film?” as though somehow I am stopping this. Gods and Generals cost $60 million to make, and if someone comes up with $60 million, fine, let’s talk. But so far it hasn’t happened.”–  Jeff Shaara (January 24, 2011)

“…So, for people who say that the odds are long, therefore you will never see it, is just silly. People who make that statement are just ignorant. I work on it every day. You know, maybe it won’t get made in my lifetime, maybe it will be made after my lifetime, and maybe it will never be made, we don’t know. What we do know, is that sometimes, these forces line up and these movies get made, but they do not get made with defeatist attitudes. They do not get made when you don’t suit up and go on the battlefield. They get made because you believe it can be made, you believe in the possibility of getting it made, and you will it into existence, by finding the right financing team, the right distributor, and the right actors who agree with you. That is how my two Civil War movies were made, and that is exactly how The Last Full Measure will be made. What I can tell the fans of the film and those who hope the movie will be made, is that there is not a week that passes where I do not work on it, and one of two things will happen: either I will die, or the film will be made. But, until I die, I will never cease my efforts to get the last part of the trilogy made.”Ron Maxwell (July 24, 2011)

III. Production Notes

So there you have it, the “long and the short of it”, so to speak: the dream of making LFM is certainly not dead, but perhaps it is much more complex than we ever could have imagined. I had to go back and re-read the Jeff Shaara interview, and there is a lot more there than I even posted above. To me, he expressed his disappointment and even anger, to a degree. I have no idea who owns the rights to the film project itself, but I would presume it is Shaara. If the film is made, then the filmmakers would have to work something out with him. If this is the case, then LFM would be more like Gettysburg than G & G, because the former was almost word for word, in most instances, with late Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels. Because Gettysburg seems to have a larger fan base, and much larger audience potential, maybe this is not such a bad thing.

In any sense, pre-production would need to begin very soon, and a realistic release date if that happened would probably be 2015, which would appropriately coincide with the end of the Civil War. Because LFM covers the Overland Campaign, Petersburg, and the surrender at Appomattox, this would not be a bad place to start. Maxwell said that he works on “it” everyday, and I will assume he means the screenplay. If that is the case, then a large chunk of time was just saved, because the script would just need to be finished and edited, as opposed to started from the beginning.

IV. Casting

At this point in time, because nearly twenty years have passed since Gettysburg, and eight since Gods and Generals, former cast members reprising their roles will be a very difficult task. Robert Duvall is 80  years old and Martin Sheen is now 71. While Sheen could probably pass for Lee, even at that age, I think an entirely new actor would have to be chosen. Could Stephen Lang, with a hair-dye job and grey beard possibly play his third different character in this, the third and final film? Then comes Tommy Lee Jones to mind, and I could definitely see him as Lee once decked out in the uniform with a beard. He would not need to put on a southern accent, and would also bring some much-needed intensity to a film that will involve the end of the war and fall of the Confederacy.

While I admit I have not read LFM as of yet (hence the reason for the question marks scattered through this section), I know that the major characters are Lee, Chamberlain, and a new addition in Ulysses S. Grant. It may be stretching it, but I think Jeff Daniels needs to reprise his role as Chamberlain, even if he looks older than the part. He, essentially, is this Civil War trilogy, and I would sacrifice that small level of authenticity to have him back. It could also be seen as the war aging and changing him, which happens to almost all soldiers.

As Grant, I can see Russell Crowe in the role (can’t we all?), since he was the original choice to play Thomas Jackson in G & G. But as a superstar who would command major money, that might not be an economically feasible option. After scanning various message boards, the name Josh Brolin also popped up to play Grant, which I would label more realistic, depending on how large a budget the film would receive. Now to something I thought of: what about Orlando Bloom? Put a scruffy beard and Ohio accent on him and I definitely see a Grant there (Bloom is now 34 and Grant was 39 when the war began). He would also attract a younger audience that might not have originally wanted to see a Civil War film. I imagine Lang’s name mentioned for this as well, but I just do not see him there. Does Pickett figure in as a prominent character with more than a couple of lines? If so, then he can continue where he left off from Gettysburg in that role. What about Sherman, is he in this as well? Lang could fit their too, which shows his versatility.

For the supporting cast, I would very much like to see Bruce Boxleitner back as Longstreet, because with a beard, you really would not notice much of an age difference, if there is any to begin with (having spoken to him at the Premiere, I would say that he looks very good). Chris Conner is also still young enough to come back as John Wilkes Booth, so we can see the completion of his transformation from angry actor to assassin. Though he had limited screen time in the director’s cut of G & G, Christian Kauffman played Lincoln well enough to be back for the sequel (heck, I can even see Lang there too). C. Thomas Howell and Brian Mallon back in their roles as Chamberlain’s brother and General Hancock? I would not have it any other way. I would like to see Patrick Gorman back as well, but in a much different role than General Hood. I would also, most definitely, want to see Mira Sorvino return as Fanny Chamberlain, because I have heard she would have some decent screen-time if the book became a movie. Because Buster Kilrain was killed off in the second film, where would Kevin Conway fit?  I would want back him in a different capacity. Could we also get Jeremy Irons involved in some way? He is one of my favorite actors, and when I see him, the word “warrior” always comes to mind. What about Dennis Quaid too, Bo Brinkman’s cousin, who has worked with Maxwell previously in The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia?

All in all, there is definitely a lot of work to be done here, but that is why we have casting directors! I am glad this is not my job, because what an ordeal it would be. Below would be my final cast list of some of the characters. I hope to read LFM very soon, but until then, this is what I have drawn from the messy paragraphs above:

Robert E. Lee….. Tommy Lee Jones

Joshua L. Chamberlain….. Jeff Daniels

Ulysses S. Grant….. Orlando Bloom

[Special Appearance ala Sam Elliot in Gettysburg]….. Dennis Quaid

James Longstreet….. Bruce Boxleitner

George Pickett/ William T. Sherman [?]….. Stephen Lang

Fanny Chamberlain….. Mira Sorvino

John Wilkes Booth….. Chris Conner

Winfield Scott Hancock….. Brian Mallon

Thomas Chamberlain….. C. Thomas Howell

Walter Taylor….. Bo Brinkman

Abraham Lincoln….. Christian Kauffman

[?]….. Patrick Gorman

[?]….. Kevin Conway

V. Final Thoughts

Now that my manifesto is complete, I would like to invite the readers of this blog to make their own casting selections in the comment section below. Perhaps yours will even be more accurate, if you have read the novel and have a feel for it. I really wish that I had the time to sit down and read it, but maybe I can accomplish it the last week of August, when I have some time off before school starts up again. It was a lot of fun casting this movie, the same amount of fun it is dreaming that this film can be made. It is out of our hands, not just we as fans, but Maxwell’s and Shaara’s as well. The two people who want this film made the most have to wait for a door to open in the financing department. We have waited many years, and even if this film does get made, we will wait some more, but either way you look at it, these next for years are now or never for The Last Full Measure.

(NEW!) VI. Jeff Shaara Responds to Article

“…I own 50% of the film rights to the book.  Ron Maxwell owns the other 50%. Thus, for any film to be made, we would both be included in the contract.  I respect Ron’s passion for seeing LFM put onto film.  I think LFM is a far better story than Gods and Generals, and would make a better film. But keeping a positive outlook isn’t the primary requirement to getting this film made.  I continue to believe that with the box-office (and critical) failure of  G& G, a golden opportunity was lost for all of us, that Ted Turner was definitely “the man” who should have put the final capstone on the trilogy.  Now, we’ll see. My fingers are crossed.” (8/4/11)

22 thoughts on “Fan-Casting and Producing “The Last Full Measure”

  1. If this movie isn’t done within the sesquicentennial period, then chances are it will never materialize. So if the movie is the be made, the time is now! As for casting, Tommy Lee Jones was actually a choice for Lee for “Gettysburg,” and I can definitely see it. I just feel Jeff Daniels looks too old to play Chamberlain again, so I would get somebody like Patrick Wilson to play him this time. If he hadn’t gone insane, I would’ve loved to see Mel Gibson as Grant, but I know that will never happen. I could see Dennis Quaid as Sherman, and Crowe is a good choice for Grant.

    They should look at asking The American Film Company (Which did “The Conspirator”), and see if they might be interested in at least being involved in some capacity.

    God bless!

    1. Mel Gibson was one of my favorite actors, and still is to a degree, but if we want this movie to do well, then he just has to stay away. Damn shame. Good action actor and fantastic director who ruined himself overnight.

      Patrick Wilson is a decent choice and I liked him in The Alamo, but he seems very dry in any film I have seen him in. That said, a handlebar mustache might make anyone look like Chamberlain, so it is not a bad decision.

  2. David Foster

    After Gods and Generals came out on dvd a group of us mounted a grass roots campaign to push sales of it, so maybe someone would make The Last Full Measure. Sales were quite good. One of my big pushes was by contacting as many people in the reenactment community as possible. Lets see if history can repeat itself (pun intended) by getting the positive buzz out about how good the extended director`s cut is. I also believe that showing it on 2 or 3 nights on TNT, like a mini series, will expose many more people to how well the story is told, and further increase video sales. I had the good fortune to play Captain Ricketts in Gods and Generals and personally feel the film has been vindicated by how good the extended director`s cut is.

    1. That is exactly how this will be done, a grassroots effort. It needs to start here and now. I have already written about showing G & G on TNT as a mini-series or two night event, and it was well recieved. If you could send this out to all your film buddies and people in the reenactment community, that would be a big help!

      1. David Foster

        I will start today after work. The big thing I want to request of your readers, is to contact TNT and ask them to show the Director`s cut, which I believe is critical to reaching the millions we need to help – The Last Full Measure along.

  3. Barn

    Unfortunately the extended cut of Gods and Generals has not received good reviews on most of the major Blu-ray review sites – HiDefDigest (who just recycled their old review), HomeTheaterForum, For those who didn’t like it in the first place, I think this is just seen as overkill. They’re not willing to give it a chance. A great shame but I think this is one that mostly fans of the film will be double-dipping on. Certainly Gettysburg seems to be selling a lot better. But I suppose sales of that will help The Last Full Measure’s cause, so it’s all good in that respect.

    As for Orlando Bloom, it’s poor casting IMO. I feel he gets a bad flack, but he’s a competent actor at best, and certainly couldn’t carry a film like this. Someone like Russell Crowe would be far better. I remember reading an old interview with ‘Empire’ magazine (about 2-3 years ago) and it mentioned he had a couple of biopics of Grant strewn across his desk, which I found very interesting. Maybe it was for another film, but the groundwork certainly seems to be there, especially given his near-role as Jackson.

    Daniels would have to come back. Duvall seems well enough to reprise his role, though Lang is a very interesting suggestion, I’d like to see his take on the character and of course he deserves a bigger role than the handful of lines I suppose Pickett might have. I’d love Berenger to come back as Longstreet, though Boxleitner might be more viable if again it’s a role the size of G&G rather than Gettysburg. Older actors should of course return if required but I don’t know about shoehorning Kevin Conway in there, he’s too synonymous with the role of Kilrain I feel. I’d like to see Frederic Forrest and Powers Boothe in there somewhere, I feel they would be a nice ‘fit’ for the series. Also Brad Dourif perhaps.

    1. I loved Duvall’s Lee better than Sheen’s, even though I like them both. But it would be tricky having someone in their 80’s play a man who was in his late 50’s. As for Berenger, I loved his Longstreet but he has ballooned up in recent years. He would probably have to lose 50-60 pounds just to even come close to where he has to be.

      I have always said that if you put Boxleitner’s beard on Berenger’s Longstreet, it would have been PERFECT. Since the beards and makeup have drastically improved, maybe Berenger could return. But he needs to lose some serious weight.

      1. Jeannine

        I completely agree with you on the Lee portrayals. I felt (and still feel) that Sheen’s accent was unnatural, although he did a remarkable job. Duvall felt more organic in the role. Although Lee was in his late 50s at the time, he did appear upwards of 75. I just stared reading the trilogy (PhD studies got in my way!), I am enjoying G&G, liked the film, but can not wait to tackle LFM.

        If Daniels and Howell do not reprise their roles if LFM is made, I will be disappointed. After all, Daniels said that his favorite role was Chamberlain.🙂

  4. Barn

    Thinking on it a bit more I think other suitable candidates for Grant would be Viggo Mortensen Aidan Quinn, or maybe even David O’Hara (perhaps not enough of a big name though).

    For Sherman I could actually see Dennis Quaid or a better choices acting-wise, Guy Pearce or Hugh Weaving.

  5. Sandra Culter

    I really do hope The Last Full Measure will be made, and soon. I realize the actors involved in the first two films are older, but so what? In “Hollywood” there are ways to make people look younger, some are cosmetic and non-invasive, so it can be done. But even if they didn’t look younger, does that really matter? I think it is much more important to see the story told on film and to include the actors who did such an awesome job bringing the historic figures to life so brilliantly and convincingly. And I like the continuity of seeing those familiar faces reprising their roles where possible, or showing up in different roles. Sometimes when other actors assume such roles it is just not the same and the magic is lost. I would prefer to see Berenger back as Longstreet (and who knows, maybe he’ll be the next spokesperson for Nutrisytem!). And I REALLY want Brian Mallon back as Hancock. That IS his role and I can’t imagine anyone doing it better. I want Jeff Daniels and Stephen Lang back too. Sheen is my favorite Lee; his portrayal seemed to me to best express this general as the almost god-like persona the South seemed to see him as.

  6. I for one would like to see The Last Full Measure made but *not* with John Wilkes Booth in it. I like the theatrical release of Gods And Generals -choppy though it may be- because we don’t have to watch JWB. Now, this is not a slam on Chris Cotter, but it *is* a slam on JWB himself: I can’t say I admire the man. I really wish Ron Maxwell hadn’t put him in the film version of G&G; it’s what has made me not be in a hurry to see the director’s cut (although I have seen bits of it online and enjoyed them). Plus, what with The Conspirator and the upcoming Spielburg biopic about Lincoln, Booth and the murder of Abe L. has been recently mined -and mined out- by Hollywood IMO, so it would be best if Mr. Maxwell leaves JWB out of TLFM’s film version and stick close to the book.

    On the positive side, I’m sure Mr. Maxwell could give us recreations of the siege of Petersburg that would make the depiction in Cold Mountain look even more pathetic (and just where were the critics yelling at that Civil War movie told from the Southern viewpoint btw? Talk about hipocrisy: G&G gets the flak while CM gets the praise????? Should have been vice-versa!)

  7. The problem with LFM would be: Where to film it? Gettysburg was largely filmed on the original preserved battlefield. But the battlefields of Atlanta and Nashville have cities built over them. There is so much material that the selection process would have to be brutal to fit into a 2 1/2 hour format. Some suggestion of the effect of the war on the “folks back home” should be made as well as the effect of the war on the aging veterans afterward. We need the reenactors but , please, NO fat ones!

  8. No need to sweat about Atlanta or Nashville for this proposed flick, Willard, since TFM takes place in the eastern theater. Still, the problems of urban sprawl around battlefields in Virginia (especially those from the 1864 Overland Campaign and the subseqent long siege of Petersburg) would make it a huge challenge to film any scenes involving those two campaigns. Still, Appomattox Courthouse is unspoiled, so Mr. Maxwell could definitely film on location there if the National Park Sevice would allow it as they did for Gettysburg at Gettysburg NMP.

  9. Bill Holland

    I wonder what American Film Company founder Joe Ricketts had to say in response to efforts to get his help in financing LFM. He would certainly be the logical choice to kick this ball down the road before it’s too late (if that isn’t already the case).

  10. Darren Bellingham

    As an Aussie civil war and warfare history fan I consider both Gods and Generals and Gettysburg to be both fine and outstanding portrayles of the American civil war.Excellent production values and exemplary professional acting.This trilogy must be completed to tell the inspiring story of all brave and honorable men and women involved in American history for the generations to come?I would gladly give my time and money if it would help in getting this trilogy told?How about the history buff’s making some donations?Ladies and Gentlemen if you please? We can try together can’t we?For the honor of the soldiers who fought? ..Cheers to my friend’s across the big pond!….DAZ.

  11. John

    Why not try to present it on the small screen on a cable channel over three nights if a big screen movie is impossible. Remember in the 80’s and 90’s ABC did Winds of War and CBS did a decent job on the George Washington series. It could be possible for 2015 for the 150th anniversary of Appomattox. Just a thought.

  12. Jay

    You have great enthusiasm for the film, but your casting is way off.

    More accurately, I’d go with:

    Mel Gibson – General Robert E. Lee
    Richard Armitage – Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant
    Ryan Gosling – Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain
    Russell Crowe – Lieutenant General James Longstreet
    John Hawkes – General Winfield Scott Hancock
    Anton Yelchin – Thomas Chamberlain
    Michael Angarano – Lt. Col. Walter H. Taylo
    Liam Neeson – President Abraham Lincoln
    Guy Pearce – General William T. Sherman
    Jeremy Renner – Major-General George Pickett

  13. I’m sorry but I would go younger. I agree with Tommy Lee Jones as Gen. Lee and Orlando Bloom as Gen. Grant. I would have Tom Welling as Gen. Chamberlain and Michael Rosenbaum as Gen. Longstreet (as little Smallville influence there).

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