Within minutes, I knew this production was going to suffer from something known as “American History Textbook Syndrome”. While this series, and any like it, needs a villain to match with the obvious protagonists, the depiction of British soldiers in AMC’s Turn was in the light of evil, bloodthirsty, and out of control—another reviewer for a major entertainment site used the word “sadistic”. Every time the British are on-screen, we feel scared at what horror they might do, from bayoneting dead soldiers just to make sure, to wrongly and knowingly accusing someone of a crime they did not commit, to having an unquenchable thirst for an already married woman. Skipping right to the character of Major Hewlett, played by Burn Gorman, he apparently is the only soldier in the King’s Army with any sense of decency, and no doubt was only inserted to keep the entire army from being seen as animals.
History-based films always work the best when we can watch a particular story and relate to the characters, and then in our minds, just change a few things around, and all of a sudden, a movie set during a particular time period becomes very relevant to almost any era. This is what happens with Ron Maxwell’s Copperhead, a film so incredibly distanced from Gettysburg and Gods and Generals (both in content and style), in a sense that it takes the both-sides-are-right mentality and completely smashes it, instead, choosing to come right out and say that war is wrong, because no matter what side you are on, or what the result is, good people acting as mere pawns in a chess game for generals and politicians, will be killed and wounded regardless. The families and conflicts present in this movie could quite literally be anybody. Yes, they are dressed in 1860’s clothing and talk about far-gone politics, but switch a few items around, and the Beeches and Hagadorns (the two main families of this film) could be any, everyday people dealing with their children being sent off to fight in Vietnam, or perhaps more recent actions in the Middle East. It is a film that can reach out and touch us, bringing us into the history in a more intimate, down-to-earth way.
Copperhead does leave some to be desired, by way of certain actors needing more screen-time, and some characters who are not developed well-enough, but overall, this is a movie that people will be able to relate to and discuss, which is definitely very important for something so laden with politics. As has been said ad nauseum, this is nothing like Maxwell’s other Civil War movies, because the battleground is not of open fields and cannons, but of vitriolic politics, families divided, and homesteads being threatened by fire and rope. The civilian is an oft forgotten facet of all wars and their history, but thankfully this movie begins to show us that the men, women, and children far away from the battlefields were just as much warriors as the soldiers doing the fighting. All of this is helped along by the outstanding soundtrack by Laurent Eyquem, which contributes much to the feeling of the movie.
The first actor I interviewed involved with Copperhead was Josh Cruddas, which happened right after filming began. We just went for the basics and he promised me another interview once filming ended, to give a better picture of his overall experience. Since I am lucky enough to have already seen the movie, I can say that Josh does a wonderful job in the role of Jimmy, who is kind of like the main character, Abner Beech’s, adopted son. Copperhead begins with Josh reciting the opening narration, setting the stage for the story to come—some of that narration can be heard in the voice-over on the trailer. As good of an actor as Josh is though, he is an even better person. We have remained in touch all this time, and I am proud to know such an aspiring young actor, who has such a bright future ahead of him. Though he has acted before, hopefully this will serve as his “big break”. At the end of our interview, Josh added, “All in all, playing Jimmy in Copperhead was a life-changing adventure for me, and I’ve made many new friends while creating a film that I believe will be something special. I need to thank Ron for giving me the chance to be in a picture like this, and I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received from everyone involved in the production and from folks back home and around the world. I feel very blessed.” Below is our full interview. Enjoy!
Here is the next installment of the weekly Copperhead video update, this one talking to some of the local New Brunswick actors involved in the filming. What interested me the most, though, was a brief look at both Angus Macfadyen and Francois Arnaud in one of their scenes, as well as an expanded view at Ron and the crew behind the camera. Enjoy!
And of course, please visit the special page we have dedicated on the blog for this film, and always remember to check it out for the latest Copperhead information!
It’s time for a poll to take the pulse of Copperhead Nation, so I shall ask you all a very simple question: which actor or actress appearing in the film are you most looking forward to seeing? Though I am a fan of Jason Patric, having seen him in The Lost Boys, The Beast, and The Alamo, I can actually picture him in his role as a stubborn and righteous farmer caught up in the turmoil of the Civil War. I do not know why, but it just fits him well—though I do not know the intricacies of the plot, I can see him quite clearly performing as he is expected. Therefore, it is actually Angus Macfadyen, and not the New York-born Patric, who I really am eager to catch a glimpse of, whether it be a behind-the-scenes picture, or a little bit down the road, in the trailer and eventual film. Macfadyen is probably the most recognized actor in the cast, because, quite frankly, who hasn’t seen Braveheart? “Every man dies, but not every man really lives,” and you surely have not lived until you have seen that film, which includes his exquisite performance as Robert the Bruce. I shall save my full characterization of both he and Patric for a later time, but for now, I just have to say that I cannot get his depiction of the Scottish Noble out of my mind, perhaps because it is the only film I have seen him in. The highly talented actor of Scottish descent has to work through a lot on his plate to become an 1860’s Upstate New Yorker, but I think he can get the job done…don’t you? So there, long story short, that is my reason.
Thanks to a reader who just sent me this article from a French-Canadian news outlet, it appears that the very popular actor Francois Arnaud from Quebec has also landed a role in Copperhead. The complete cast list has not yet been furnished, as work on their IMDB page is still ongoing, so you can expect little updates like this until it happens. The website notes that Arnaud has become very well-known to English-speaking audiences due to his lead role in the highly acclaimed television series The Borgias. Another cast-member, Agustus Prew, has also worked on that show, while actress Lucy Boynton has starred in a British version, simply named Borgia. Along with Jason Patric who has appeared in The Alamo and Angus Macfadyen in Braveheart, it is nice to see so many actors who have experiences playing historical figures. Arnaud will be portraying a character named Warner Pitts, so hopefully, he will be able to get the American accent down-pat.
With principal photography beginning today on Ron Maxwell’s Copperhead, I have been sent the following announcement regarding the film. Some of the cast-members have been released (the moment we’ve all been waiting for!), as well as their website now becoming active. While below is the official statement, I just want to say how I excited I am to see Jason Patric in the lead role, as he was excellent as James Bowie in the 2004 film The Alamo. Also being cast is actor Angus MacFadyen, who played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart, another epic. Supporting actors include Agustus Prew of the very popular TV series The Borgias, as well as Lucy Boynton, Genevieve Steele, and Casey Brown. Please check out the statement below, as well as their official website, Facebook, and Twitter.