Interview with Film and Television Actor Fred Griffith

Griffith (right) as Robert Rodes, alongside Stephen Lang, who starred as Thomas J. Jackson in ‘G & G’.

There are some interviews which just find a way to you and work themselves out on their own. Case in point, this one with film and television actor Fred Griffith (Brig. Gen. Robert Rodes, CSA), who upon reading my announcement regarding the Gods and Generals themed trivia contest we will be having here in March, contacted me and offered to donate an autograph for one of the prizes or conduct an interview. Surprised by this generosity, I took him up on both his offers, and here we are, learning of the filming experiences of yet another G & G cast-member. Though he did not have any lines in the film, he had plenty of screen-time and proved to be a tremendous presence working alongside Stephen Lang. Fred told me on Facebook, “Rodes did have lines in the original 250 page script, which I read! Welcome to Hollywood!”

Nevertheless, someone thought very highly of his role (his “big break”, as he calls it), because very soon after, he landed guest appearances on the hit TV shows Judging Amy, The District, and 24, and since Gods and Generals, he has appeared in ten films (including the Civil War related The Last Confederate: The Story of Robert Adams), with four more closing production in the coming months. I guess sometimes it pays to be a quiet cavalry officer! I asked him about his filming experiences and more in our conversation below:

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Interview with Actor and Voice Artist James Horan

James Horan is a man of many talents—with more than 120 film, television, and video game acting credits to his name, it is difficult to know where to begin. Well, for me, he is Colonel Arthur Cummings from Gods and Generals, a character that holds distinction as the first of many officers to order a charge, when he reluctantly does so in the battle of First Manassas. But to others, he is the voice of their favorite video game characters, as James is mainly a voice artist, supplying anything from actual character dialogue, to narration, and even singing; I hear he does a killer Elvis impersonation!

When I contacted him about his filming experiences in G & G, he agreed to share them, and as you will read below, he even discussed what it was like being on the set the day of 9/11, something that the actors in the Extended Director’s Cut on-stage panel talked about briefly back in July. James has also appeared in television shows such as Star Trek: Enterprise, and more recently, in the films Flags of our Fathers and Dying God. I would like to thank him for taking the time to conduct this interview, and sharing such great stories!

GC: What did you do to prepare for your role as Colonel Cummings in G & G?

JH: Basically not much–I had long hair at the time, which the director felt would be fine for the character, and I thought it was an interesting look.  I did do some research online that Arthur Cummings had been a lawyer in Abingdon, VA before the war, and after his service to the Confederacy, he returned to being a lawyer there.  He seemed like a decent man who was fighting for a cause in which he believed, and a way of life that he felt was being threatened.  I of course had seen the original Gettysburg, and re-watched it a couple of times  to immerse myself in the period.

GC: Did you have any knowledge or interest in the Civil War prior to filming? 

JH: I had seen Ken Burns amazing documentary on the Civil War, and had seen several other films, including the aforementioned Gettysburg. Of course, being from Louisville, Kentucky, I had heard stories about the war and it’s effect on Kentucky as a “border” state, and how the war forced families to take sides, sometimes causing brother literally to be fighting brother.  I went to school in Danville, Kentucky at a small college called Centre College, which was founded in 1819, and one of the oldest buildings on campus had been used as a hospital by the Union army for a time.  The Perryville battlefield was near the school, and I’m sure many skirmishes took place around those parts.  But I wouldn’t describe myself as a “buff”, no.

GC: Can you tell us what your overall filming experience was like?

JH: It was great.  I was only there for one week, I think, but I made quick friends among my fellow actors.  I met Stephen Lang, who has gone on to do some amazing work, most recently of course in Avatar.  He told me he would have liked to have me around longer in the movie, as he felt too many of the actors around him were a little on the younger, greener side.  He said he wanted someone around him with more “mileage”, and I took that as a compliment!  The director was also very cool to work with, and the overall experience was wonderful.  Except for the fact that my last day of shooting was Sept. 11 of 2001, the day of the great tragedy in New York City.  Many of the cast and crew were based in New York, so of course they were deeply personally touched with concern for their family and friends.  One of the actors told us his father worked in the World Trade Center, but he didn’t know which tower, so he was nearly beside himself, understandably.  Thank God we later learned his dad had followed his instincts and got out of the building once the attack had taken place, even though he had been told not to leave by security.  It was very surreal to be watching the destruction on the one television at our location, which was in the middle of a huge field in Virginia.  All of the cast and crew huddled around the tv, watching what looked like Jerry Bruckheimer special effects.  All filming stopped, and after a time, the director summoned everyone together, and asked if we wanted to continue shooting or take the day off. It was nearly unanimous that everyone wanted to keep making the picture, because they felt they were telling a great story about an important part of American history, and history had certainly been made that day.  I remember thinking that the toppling of those buildings in New York was probably the worst attack on the American mainland since the Civil War had wrought such destruction on so many town and cities.

GC: You have supplied the voices for many characters in video games over the years. What is that like? Is it easier than acting in a movie?

JH: I’ve voiced characters in over seventy video games, and yes, I find it very challenging and fun.  Having been trained for the theater, I particularly enjoy creating characters with just my voice, as I’ve always felt the voice is an integral part of any role I create.  It is “easier” than acting in movies, since no one cares what you look like in a game, but I like to bring the same level of professionalism and care to the voice work as I do to the on-camera stuff.

GC: Do you have any upcoming film/TV/video games projects coming up? Please tell us about them.

JH: I’ve just finished working on several voices for the upcoming game Diablo 3, which I know many of the fans are eagerly awaiting.  Can’t reveal details, as I’m sworn to secrecy, but I’m sure the game won’t disappoint, and hopefully my voice acting won’t either!   Recently I contributed several voices for Batman, Arkham Asylum, and I also worked a lot on Dawn of War in its various incarnations.  If you visit my IMDb page, you’ll find a full list of the games I’ve done with details on who I voiced—I can’t remember them all.  And that’s a good thing—I’d hate to have done so few I knew them all!

Once again, I would like to thank Mr. Horan for conducting this interview! You can check out his official website here.

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)

Site News: Will Be Covering the “Gods and Generals” Manassas Premiere

This has really been a hectic few hours—I went from setting up interviews and following up with directors Ron Maxwell and Robert Child to finding out that I will actually be attending the world premiere of the Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Virginia. This highly anticipated event will include a panel discussion between Maxwell and actors Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels, and Stephen Lang on July 22, before the actual film showing the next night. The best part about all of this? My attendance will be arranged by Maxwell himself, who upon finding out that I was unable to attend, told me that if I can find away to get down there, he would get me a ticket for myself and a friend, who will help me blog about the event. Maxwell also told me that he will make sure I can interview the actors as well. I cannot say how thrilled I am of this opportunity.

Even if for some reason I cannot get to speak to the actors in the confusion of the evening, I still would love to get pictures with Maxwell along with Brian Mallon and Patrick Gorman, two actors who have been very good to me in giving me interviews and information. Jeff Huber, a friend of mine who is a college history professor, and who you have met through our historical research work, will be with me to cover the event. I hope to blog about my experiences nightly from the hotel in a journal-type format.

All in all, I was shocked, not only by what has transpired, but that I was actually able to book a hotel room in a town that is going to be swamped with tens of thousands of people. My dad has booked them though Hilton Honors, which we have never really had much use for. Jeff also has a friend who works for a hotel in the area and might be able to get us cheaper rooms, but we will use this as a safety net. I still can’t believe this is actually happening. I do have a fear of being starstruck, should I be in a room surrounded by so many great actors, but I think I can maintain composure…and pray I will maintain enough professionalism to not ask for an autograph.

Sincerely,

Greg Caggiano

P.S: I know there are a lot of reenactors/enthusiasts who read this site that will be in Manassas for the reenactment and/or film event. If you would like to meet up, I will be getting there on the 21st, to give myself a day to settle in and check out the surroundings. There will also be plenty of time before the panel on the 22nd. Please let me know, and we can arrange a visit and finally get a chance to put face to pen, err…keyboard!

Movie Review: The Director’s Cut of “Gettysburg”

There are very few movies out there that can change a person’s life—Gettysburg did that for me. Having first seen it when I was about seven or eight, when my mom taped it off of one of the many airings on TNT in the 1990’s, this was the film that single-handedly turned me into the History and Civil War buff I am today. I watched the VHS tape until it wore out and would no longer work. In fact, even sometimes today, when I watch Ron Maxwell’s 1993 epic, I can still remember where certain commercial breaks were. Little did I know that the version I watched all those times was actually the same director’s cut I received on Blu Ray from Warner Brothers last week, the same film which you are all eagerly waiting for.

The deleted scenes from Gettysburg have never been a mystery. The director’s cut was released in 1994 on VHS and was the version of the film shown regularly on TNT. All scenes have also been available on YouTube for the last few years. When I first bought the DVD when I got little older, not knowing what a director’s cut even was, I wondered what happened to the scene where General John Reynolds asks a soldier how he can see out of his glasses, because they are so covered in dust. That very scene is now back into the film, along with a few others, totaling about seventeen minutes. They are not nearly as important to this script as those for Gods and Generals were to that, but it still helps with character development and building the storyline. One of the scenes the film could have done without, but the others were still very important to understanding certain events that happened in and around the time of battle.

To comment very briefly on the technical components, let me just say that I was somewhat disappointed in the visual quality of the film. While it is still much better than the DVD, it is grainy and almost hazy in certain spots. This is really no one’s fault, as some films just do not transfer well to Blu Ray. I have no complaints about the audio, but the video could have just been a little bit better.

Though both this film and its prequel, Gods and Generals, are both fantastic movies, I will always have a softer spot in my heart for Gettysburg, not only because it was one of my first favorites, but because of the tremendously superior casting. Everywhere you look, there is a star who sneaks in for a role, even if it lasts only two minutes (like that of a certain ex-James Bond). Normally when epic films go that route, and throw in every major actor they can, it fails, but somehow this film always seems to accomplish what it sets out to do, and that is give us an idea of how these men thought, and how their thinking led to decisions that helped shape the country we have today.

There has never been a film made, before or since, that has taken a single event spread out over the course of as small a time as three days is, and tried to cram every bit of information they could, all while still remaining entertaining. Sam Elliot lands the role of Union cavalry general John Buford, and it is too bad that Buford was not more involved in the battle, because Elliot’s scenes end after day one. Somehow, in watching his scenes, I do not even think he had to act to give us this spectacular performance—it seriously looks as if he is just being himself. His mustache is real, his accent is not put on, he looks like he lives on the back of a horse, and all this plays in to why his few brief scenes are so memorable. The first deleted scene to make its way into the film involves Buford, and when they are riding through the town of Gettysburg. While next to Colonel Devin (David Carpenter), a woman in the town asks if there are going to be any problems with the approaching Confederates. Devin responds, “Nothing the cavalry can’t handle.”

The majority of all the deleted scenes occur with in the Day One time frame. These include Martin Sheen’s passionate depiction of Robert E. Lee discussing the strange disappearance of J.E.B Stuart (Joseph Fuqua) with his aid Major Taylor (Bo Brinkman), right before Taylor goes into his mouth-watering description of the breakfast that is available for Lee that morning. There is also some dialogue there that is rather important, and that is when Lee says the Confederate army must be charitable to citizens in the area, and not act how the Yankees did when they invaded Virginia. Taylor blatantly says that those orders are hard to follow.

To move on to the Union side of the cast, Jeff Daniels gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, as he is able to portray the man as both a scholar and a warrior. Like I have said in previous articles, it was a travesty that Gettysburg did not receive even one nomination from any organization, even though Richard Jordan’s character of Lewis Armistead was both haunting and incredible and should have won him a supporting actor Oscar. C. Thomas Howell plays Chamberlain’s brother, and there is some extended dialogue between him and one of the 2nd Maine prisoners who refused to fight because their papers expired. Here they have a pretty comical conversation about how many bugle calls the Union army has.

Before that, John Reynolds (John Rothman) gets another scene, upping his screen time, saying that, “We will fight them inch by inch through the town if necessary.” He is shown as being very calm and confident, and this certainly helps the worrisome Buford as he does not think his cavalry can hold out against Henry Heth’s (Warren Burton) infantry.

On the eve of the first day comes some more added footage, this time involving the film’s central character of James Longstreet, played by Tom Berenger. Here, the star of Platoon gives one of the best performances of his career. The most gripping scene involving him, in my eyes, comes right before Pickett’s Charge is about to begin, when the namesake, played to utter perfection by Stephen Lang, asks him if he should commence the attack. Clearly sick to his stomach at the mass death that is about to unfold, Berenger does not even speak, he just gives a small hand gesture. The only thing about his character, and that of others, that detracts from the film is something that has been mentioned and mocked time and time again…the beards. In case you are wondering, no, they do not look any better on Blu Ray. They do not necessarily look worse, but let’s just say they are even more noticeable (as hard to believe as that is). It’s a shame that the production company did not want to pay, as Bo Brinkman put it to me in an interview, “the best beard guy in the business”, that Maxwell had found. With so much screen-time in this nearly five-hour epic, you would think more care would have been taken to the beard that Blu Ray’s official website has called, “fearsome”.

In getting to the actual footage with Berenger, it includes a discussion with his brigadier generals Richard Garnett (Andrew Prine), who thanks his commander for the opportunity to get back in the action. Pickett and Longstreet then talk about Pickett’s division seeing a lack of action, and how he is worried that the war will end soon and his boys will have missed out on most of it (he would sure make up for it on July 3!). A visitor from Britain, Colonel Arthur Freemantle (James Lancaster), portrayed as being very debonaire, yet savvy, tells James Kemper (Royce Applegate) and Garnett that he has never seen Longstreet “fraternizing” so much. He then finds out that Longstreet lost his children in a Scarlet Fever epidemic a year prior, and that was the reason.

The next inserted scene after this is probably more important to the script than any other. Coming on the heels of Morgan Sheppard’s much talked about scene involving a livid General Trimble ripping on General Ewell for not taking Culp’s Hill, a mistake many historian’s blame for the Confederates’ loss of Gettysburg, maybe even the war. Lee confronts the general along with Jubal Early, A.P Hill, and Robert Rodes and asks if it was possible to take the hill, and their explanations are given. With this being such a short scene, if any of these should have been left in the original cut, this should have been it.

Moving to day two, which is July 2nd, I have a special connection to this day, because it is my birthday (perhaps I died in the battle during a past life). Here we see the emergence of Chamberlain as one of the more intelligent regimental commanders in the army, for his bold last stand on Little Round Top, against wave after wave of charging Confederate soldiers. Helped along by an old army veteran, Buster Kilrain (Kevin Conway in a comical and touching performance), he holds his ground and orders a daring bayonet charge that he only thought of because he did not go to West Point. Being a professor without an in-depth knowledge of military tactics, he got creative at just the right time. The cinematography during this battle scene is spectacular. The smoke, combined with the light shining through the forest of trees adds an almost surreal feel to it. This is where I must also comment on the blood (or lack thereof) in this film. Many criticize Maxwell for not depicting blood and gore realistically. When men are shot they slump to the ground, and when we see bullets rip into soldiers, there is very little, and in some cases, no blood shown. There is a reason for this, and that is the greater good and educational value of this film. Because of its PG rating, it can be viewed by virtually any audience. Had it been rated-R, would I have been able to watch it and be captivated by it as a seven-year old? Hell no. As much as I would like to see a realistic battle scene, with blood flowing and limbs getting taken off left and right, this was not the time or place for it. This film, despite three distinct battle scenes, was more of a focus and study on the men, their feelings, and their tactics. The battle is just there as a result, and not the driving force. Once you can understand that, you can appreciate the value of its bloodless scenes.

After that portion of the battle, when Longstreet is walking through the field hospital, after briefly checking in on an injured General Hood (Patrick Gorman, in an emotionally draining scene), he meets up with Henry Harrison (Cooper Huckabee), the actor-turned-spy,  for the second time in the film, and there is some extended dialogue there. The last major deleted scene comes before the battle on the second day, which was when Longstreet and Freemantle discuss tactics. Personally, I did not care for it at all and understood why it was cut. The acting by Freemantle when he exclaims how brilliant Lee is seems rather put on, and the excitement is fake. The director’s cut could have done without it as well.

Now, for the third and final day of the battle is where we see some of the best battle scenes ever filmed, Pickett’s Charge. Unlike Gods and Generals, which unfortunately had to revert to thousands of CGI figures for distance shots at Fredericksburg, the thousands of men seen marching into battle against the stone wall at “The Angle”, where General Hanock’s (Brian Mallon) men await, are real. The filming of this scene alone is an achievement, and it is made even more special when you take into consideration that it was filmed on the actual location where the men began the charge in 1863. The outcome was tragic, as Pickett’s division was nearly destroyed after a mile-long march over open ground while facing infantry and artillery fire, and this scene captures that, but not without some fanfare. The reason why the dialogue leading up to this is so important is because it captures both sides of feeling. Longstreet knows the attack will fail, while the headstrong Lee can see an end to the war in sight. Pickett and Garnett are eager to fight, while Trimble and General Johnston Pettigrew (briefly played by George Lazenby) are thankful for the opportunity to take part. There is even a very sobering scene when Harrison asks Longstreet if he can join, and he is basically told how the army will be decimated when all is said and done.

There is an emotional, almost tear-jerking moment when Lee rides out and hundreds of his men swarm him to cheer, and try to shake his hand. The music, written by Randy Edelman, played during the scene leaves you breathless, as you take in just how important Lee was to his men, and much of a Christ-like figure he seemed to be. But many of those cheering men would be dead just hours later in the ill-fated attack.

From the sweeping camera shots to the music, from the soaring cannon balls to the men being thrown in the air from their impact, the charge scene really deserves a place of prominence in war films. Armistead will steal the show towards the end with his brave gallop towards the wall before being shot, and then is cared for by Union soldiers when the battle is over. Here is where my eyes always seem to well up, because we do not only see Armistead dying, but Richard Jordan as well, who died weeks before the film reached theaters, from brain cancer.

With the review now complete, I just cannot help but feel that I have missed something, because the film is so long and there are so many characters and sub-plots involved. I originally reviewed the film here, a few months ago, so I was trying not to repeat myself and get in those deleted scenes. Once again, I cannot give a number rating here. People may have their squabbles about the film, but to me, it will always be very special. This was a labor of love for Maxwell and the more than ten thousand reenactors who paid their own was to take part in the depiction of the most important battle of our most important war. This masterwork of story-telling and historical drama deserves more respect than what it gets.

Movie Review: The Extended Director’s Cut of “Gods and Generals”

Once again, I would like to thank Warner Brothers for sending me the two films in advance and allowing for this review to take place. This has really been a lot of fun. I would also like to attach a spoiler warning: if you want to be surprised at what scenes are included when you watch it for the first time, do not read this review until after you see it!

Opening Remarks

When I arrived home from work and found the package had arrived containing the two films I so anxiously awaited to see, I knew my anticipation was going to be soon over. I quickly brought them in the house and opened them up, wanting to watch them right then and there. Instead, I waited a couple of hours, not able to come to the realization of what I was actually holding in my hand. This is the version of Gods and Generals that we have heard so much about, and done our fair share of speculation over. What scenes were coming in? What new characters will there be? Will the Antietam battle scene live up to its reputation spread by the very few who had seen it? Over the next five and a half hours, after taking breaks to jot down notes and walk around, the four hours and forty minutes of brilliance would answer all those questions, and leave me satisfied.

At first, I was not going to take any notes, because I waited so long and wanted to enjoy it, but when the new footage began to flow fast and furiously, I had no choice but to write down what was going on. The first thing that the audience will notice is that the film is broken down into five parts: Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Moss Neck, and Chancellorsville. This definitely serves to guide the film, and almost makes each section seem like acts from a play, very fitting when you consider the scope of this film and screenplay is Shakespearean in nature. As you will read below, the Antietam scene blew me away, and the newly added John Wilkes Booth character was absolutely fantastic. But what caught my attention was not the addition of new material, but the subtraction of some. Not only are some scenes extended, but some are shortened, and two (that I counted, could have been more) are eliminated all together. Many people said the reason why they found the original boring was because of the constant praying and preaching, and director Ron Maxwell took care of all of that here.

Before the actual review of content, I want to make note of the technical aspects of the Blu Ray presentation. The picture itself was masterfully enhanced and the colors enriched, while the sound is so realistic and absorbing, you will feel like you were picked up and placed right in the middle of the battlefield. Since I already reviewed the theatrical version of this film, this review will focus mostly on the new scenes. Please keep in mind that I could not describe them all, because there were too many, but these were what I felt were the best and most important.

Part One: Bull Run

The first new footage that makes its way in is the highly anticipated insertion of the John Wilkes Booth character, played by Chris Conner, who figures quite prominently throughout the entire film, in five or six scenes. We see him make a speech to some Confederate recruits, citing a line of Shakespeare, but not before signing some autographs for the herds of beautiful young women who flock to see the superstar actor. The portrayal of Booth in this film was so important, because we see what he was really like, before his intense hatred of Lincoln began. He was young, charismatic, and patriotic—most likely the major sex symbol of his day as well. He was not the raving mad lunatic that history tries to paint him as, and here we see the human side of him.

A good scene involving Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, captured by the wonderful Stephen Lang, involves him wanting to purchase a horse. Initially, he intends to give the horse he names “Little Sorrel” to his wife, but keeps him, after telling Pendleton (Jeremy London) that he is “even-tempered”. Several shots are also shown of him riding the horse in the Virginia countryside.

Now we get to a major change involving the original footage. The scene where Jackson prays on the eve of battle was removed entirely, and there is no music playing when his soldiers come out of the woods and on to Henry House Hill. As soon as I saw this, I knew that this cut would be for real. The removal of the prayer kept the pace of the film going more evenly, and allowed for the battle of First Bull Run to be fought with intensity, without the audience having to bring themselves up from listening to Jackson.

Part Two: Antietam

I swear, that when the title card for this part came on the screen, I got goosebumps. For the next hour or so, this would be the section that has the most added footage. John Wilkes Booth makes his second appearance backstage, having a conversation with our good friend Henry T. Harrison, played by Cooper Huckabee, who you will remember as Longstreet’s spy in Gettysburg. We then move to Centreville where Jackson informs his men about his promotion to Major General and transfer to the Shenandoah Valley. His men are upset by this, because the brigade will have to remain, but they say how they will petition to get transferred with him. This makes a coming scene, where he gives his “First Brigade” speech to his men on horseback, have more meaning and clarify a lot. There is also extended dialogue between Jackson and his wife Anna (Kali Rocha) as they are laying in bed, after she visits him.

The Union then makes their entrance, with the already released “Camp Mason” deleted scene. There is a new scene involving Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) and his superior officer Adelbert Ames (Matt Letscher), whose character was greatly expanded in several scenes, when they discuss tactics and their importance. Ames also remarks that he heard how smart Chamberlain is, and says that he will be able to master whatever duty he is given. Ames also tests Chamberlain’s brother, played by C. Thomas Howell, on the steps in loading a rifle.

Robert E. Lee, played hauntingly well by Robert Duvall, then holds his first council of war, to tell his generals of his Maryland invasion plans. Just like in Gettysburg, Longstreet (Bruce Boxleitner) warns him of the risks, while Jackson is excited for the opportunity.

Now to the part everybody is waiting for, the actual battle scene, and it begins rather unexpectedly. The scene where Chamberlain and Kilrain (Kevin Conway) meet for the first time is expanded, and leads right into the battle, as that meeting was supposed to be on the morning of September 17th. Ames joins Chamberlain and they hear cannon fire in the background. Having never been in battle before, he is nervous, but Ames tells him it is just the artillery feeling each other out—this is really quite unassuming when you consider the bloodshed about to occur. Howell also keeps his humor, when he confronts his brother and says that he has gained weight even with a diet of hardtack and “worms”, as he puts it. The scene then cuts to blasting cannons when all hell breaks loose.

When the battle begins, Lee rides to his artillerymen and tells them how important they are. We then go right into the cornfield, where yes, I will announce it, we have the best battle footage of the entire movie (it even trumps my much loved Fredericksburg). The fighting is fierce and brutal, and the pace of the entire sequence is frantic, making you uneasy because so much is going on. There is no gallantry at Antietam, just horror. The two sides advance and blast away at each other, the bullets shredding the stalks of corn and tearing through arms and legs of the men. There are more bullet entry effects in these five minutes than the rest of the film, and perhaps that is why it was removed—I’m beginning to think the MPAA was a lot more strict back then, and in 2003 this would have made it an R-rated film. The effects here are top-notch. There is one shot of a bullet going through a man’s canteen and sending water everywhere. The artillery effects are also spectacular, and men go flying when the explosions occur.

Two of the characters I interviewed, Brian Mallon as Hancock and Patrick Gorman as Hood, also get more screen-time here. In just about twenty seconds, Hood will give you the feeling of such realism. Pendleton rides to him and asks how long he can hold, and Hood barely even looks at him and gives a half-hearted salute, because he is too busy watching his Texas infantry get slaughtered in the cornfield. Hancock gets his addition when he confronts the added character of George McClellan (James Parkes) rather unenthusiastically. I will not quote what is said between the two, but McClellan has the air of arrogance about him, and I only wish he got more screen-time, because as a person, he was so complex. There is also a scene revolving Jackson and a close call with a cannonball. However, I will not ruin that for you—you will have to see it for yourself!

Just like in Fredericksburg, Kilrain and Tom have their little wise-crack. The younger of the two says that it would be hard to kill a sergeant (their rank) because there are two men standing in front of them. The old Irishman then says, rather bluntly, “A sergeant only fires his weapon when the men in front of him are killed.” Unfortunately, the two brief scenes in the cornfield is all the fighting we get here. That is the only part of the film that really disappointed me—I guess I was expecting a longer battle scene, but it is my own fault for assuming as much. Nevertheless, the intensity present in just ten minutes or so was so great, that I actually had to watch the scene a second time when it was completed.

When the battle comes to a close, Ames rides and tells the men that they will not be needed. He makes a slight dig at McClellan, for failing to use all his men, and noting how nothing was accomplished by either side, and the losses were so great. It then cuts to Booth, performing on stage, and what he is reciting is played over a pan shot of dead soldiers, with the words matching pretty closely to what is shown. We then see him eating dinner with a lady friend, where he calls Lincoln mad for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. But it is the lady who steals the scene, when she says the truth about the proclamation, and how it did not really free anyone. Later on, we meet the character of Prussian general Heros Von Borcke (Matt Lindquist), who joins the Confederates and is a friend of J.E.B Stuart (Joseph Fuqua). Here he presents Jackson with a new uniform, a gift from Stuart, and makes him try it on. His character is quite funny, and is in one or two more scenes.

Part Three: Fredericksburg

It was at this point in the viewing, when I looked down at the player and saw there was about two more hours left, that I knew I needed some coffee. Thankfully, I was able to put the notebook down for most of this part, because it was left relatively unchanged. There is one line I like from Pendleton, though, when he tells Lee how far away Jackson is, and how quickly they will arrive. Lee asks something to the effect of, “What are his men made of?” The response is, “It’s General Jackson, sir. For him, dawn begins a minute after midnight.”

While the battle scene was pretty much unedited, there was one thing I did not understand. During the shelling of the city, when the Beales’ and Martha’s family are hiding in the cellar, and there is a knock at the door, the line Martha (Donzaleigh Abernathy) speaks is overdubbed and changed. Rather than, “Praise be, it’s young John.” it goes to, “Praise be, it’s Master John.” Perhaps this was to clarify her place as a slave within the household, though she is treated rather well.

During the scene where the generals meet beforehand, there is about five seconds of dialogue added where Stuart remarks to Jackson that he likes his new uniform. Jackson’s mannerisms make him appear more human, and the added footage really takes him down a notch from where he was, making the emotionless commander a bit more likeable, though that is how he was in real life. There is also a small, yet rousing speech given by James Kemper (the late Royce Applegate) to his men before they are deployed to the stonewall at Marye’s Heights.

My only critique here is that I really expected Maxwell to revamp the CGI effects of soldiers marching into battle. They seem to be enhanced slightly, but the superb clarity of Blu Ray does not hide the fact that they all move exactly the same way. This was scoffed at in the original, and I have no doubt it will be scoffed at by many here too.

Part Four: Moss Neck

The one section of the film that I thought the original could have done without was the telling of Jackson and his men and their dealings with the family at Moss Neck Manor. But once again, because the storyline is expanded, it fits right in and rather smoothly. It actually begins toward the tail end of Fredericksburg (I wonder why they did not wait a little longer) when Hancock brings his injured friend to the makeshift hospital. This is where we see the second bit of dialogue removed completely, as Martha’s quoting of the Book of Esther while caring for the soldier was cut out.

After seeing an insertion of Lee receiving news of Burnside’s retreat from Fredericksburg on December 15, Chamberlain is seen riding talking to a general, who I assume is Joseph Hooker, about the failure of the attack. This is where Ron Maxwell makes his cameo, as a subordinate officer in the background. The next new footage is the already released “Steal Away to Jesus” scene where Jim Lewis (Frankie Faison) talks to a fellow black Confederate soldier about how the other man was given his freedom papers right before his former master was killed in battle.

There are now two new major scenes, where Jackson’s newborn baby is baptized, and the other where we finally have meaning given to the music on the soundtrack titled, “No Photographs”. In a quite humorous sketch, photographers arrive to take a picture of Jackson, saying that they initially came for Lee but he would not have it taken until Jackson does. After much deliberation, he announces that he cannot refuse a request from Lee, and has the picture taken, much to his dismay.

Finally, to cap off Part Four, is the best of the Booth scenes. Abraham Lincoln (Christian Kauffman) and Mary Todd (Rosemary Knower) are riding in a carriage on their way to the theater, talking about how wonderful an actor Booth is, and how they are excited to see him perform Macbeth that night. Here, Booth gives the much-anticipated “Dagger of the Mind” soliloquy, where at one point, while raising the dagger, he looks Lincoln directly in the eye. When the performance is through, Booth is backstage smoking a cigar with Harrison when a worker tells him that the President wants to meet him. Booth responds, “Tell that tyrant…that destroyer of civil liberties…that war monger, that I am in dispose. Better yet, tell him nothing. That I have gone for the night.”

Part Five: Chancellorsville

While the battle scene was left alone, as far as I could tell, there is a lot of added dialogue. The first is before and after the Wilderness strategy discussion and the other is Jim Lewis talking to Von Borcke about Jackson’s eccentricities with prayer.

After Jackson is wounded, we see the rest of the footage. John Wilkes Booth makes his exeunt, with a performance in Julius Caesar, as Brutus, in which Chamberlain and his wife Fanny (Mira Sorvino) are in attendance. The two meet Booth and Harrison after the play, but Booth does not speak to the Colonel, just his wife. When they leave, Harrison becomes enamored with Chamberlain’s bravery, and then begins to talk about wanting to become a soldier. He calls it “an honor” to be killed by a man like Chamberlain, and despite Booth trying to dissuade him, it leaves off with Harrison ready to join the army (which he does, because of where he is in Gettysburg).

Jackson’s death has some minor edits as well. There is a small hymn sung while at his deathbed. After he dies, the funeral procession is shortened and the ending is slightly altered—I will not spoil that one for you, because it is quite somber. If you were teary-eyed at the end of the original, you will experience the same here.

Closing Remarks

To give this movie a number rating would not do it justice. Let’s just say that I am more than thrilled with the production that we have all waited eight years to see in its entirety. Personally, I think it was worth the wait, though I wish it was cut by a few years! The story flows a lot better and the cuts made, along with the additions, really help the audience stay focused. This was the masterful epic story that was meant to be told, and I am sure all who enjoyed the theatrical version will be head-over-heels with this one. The only thing that makes me sad about this was the fact that so much had to be put off. Because Conner put so much into the Booth character, and Harrison was so likeable in the sequel, it’s a shame that they had to wait eight years for their performances to be seen, but better late than never I guess.

For the critics that dismissed it the first time, give it another shot. Gods and Generals has been enhanced and revamped from start to finish, and it is worth a try. It will probably take another viewing or two for it all to sink in for me, but I am very happy right now to be able to have reviewed this for all of you—I hope it has wet your appetites even more. There will be no better way to commemorate this 150th anniversary of the American Civil War than to watch this film. There is so much passion behind every scene, not only because of the painstaking attention to detail, but the adventure it must have been to finally produce this project. To Ronald Maxwell, I have just two words to say: “Thank you”.

Own Gods and Generals on Blu Ray May 24th! Until then, some more of the deleted scenes have been put online. Check them out!

EDIT: Click here to read some additional follow-up to this review.

Making the Case for Richard Jordan’s Oscar Worthy Performance in “Gettysburg”

Can you believe that Gettysburg did not win one single award in 1993 or 1994? Watching this film leaves me frustrated every time, because the movie is so full of great performances. I know it did not get much time in theaters because of its running time, but I still consider it a travesty that this movie was ignored by every motion picture awards association, with the exception of the Chicago Film Critics who nominated Jeff Daniels for best supporting actor, even though it stayed in the Box Office Weekly Top Ten for several weeks, an incredible feat when you consider it could only be shown twice a day.

Even the critics who did not like Ron Maxwell’s epic 1993 Civil War film Gettysburg still agreed one on thing, that it was just that, an epic. From the costume design to the size of the cast, right on through to the scope of the battle scenes, it is fair to say that this movie is a one of a kind in the subject field it tackles, and is also the last of the good old-fashioned epic war films. No longer are movies made with a cast of thousands—the humans have been replaced by animatronic figures or computer generated images. No longer are battlefields used, where the soldiers march actual distances—there is now only a small area of real ground surrounded by green-screens. This is why Gettysburg stands out to me, that and the fine acting performances all around, given by Tom Berenger as James Longstreet, Jeff Daniels as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee, but there are also a few others that stand out and go underrated when viewing this film.

The entire group of Virginian brigade commanders have an excellent chemistry that unfortunately could not get any more screen time in this film already loaded with speaking roles. A young Stephen Lang (who actually grew his own beard, according to Bo Brinkman) plays the division commander of Andrew Prine (Garnett), Royce Applegate (Kemper), and of course, Richard Jordan as Brigadier General Lewis Armistead. While Lang plays Pickett’s eccentricity and personality to perfection, and the others combine to be humorous and serious as the film progresses, it is Jordan who steals the show as the passionate commander who loves his men and his Confederate country, but also loves his best friend, Winfield Scott Hancock (played by Brian Mallon) who is fighting for the Union.

Armistead recollects the time he spent with Hancock, and the last night they were together before they went off to fight against each other in the War Between the States. They were at the same house with their wives, when Myra Hancock sang “Kathleen Mavourneen” and played it on the piano, and they all began to cry. It is here when Armistead swears to Hancock that he wishes the Lord would strike him down if he ever has to fight him on the field of battle. While both soldiers faced off against one another at Fredericksburg (in the same exact way, just in reversal of who had the stone wall), their troops did not directly clash with each other. But at Gettysburg, Armistead is worried that he will have to “raise his hand” against his old friend, and in a very emotional conversation with Longstreet, gives him a package to be delivered to Myra in the event of his death. It seems that the only two times in the film where I teared up are when Jordan is on the screen. The first is this scene, and the second is as he lays dying on the battlefield.

The sadness is escalated, perhaps, because Jordan himself was dying of brain cancer while filming this movie, and actually had to be hospitalized for a brief time at Gettysburg Hospital. To keep this in mind while watching Armistead’s final on-screen moments (the general would live only three more days in real life) makes it even worse, and it is possible that Jordan was able to play this to perfection because he knew that he was dying. In a way, this all has to do with fate, and you can see in Armistead’s eyes before the charge that would kill him, that he knows he is not going to live. It is because of this belief that he was able to fight so bravely, and when getting to the Emmitsburg Road on his way to attack the Union line, he sees his men have slowed down, but he stands up, sticks his hat on his sword and yells for his Virginians to follow him. They do, prompting a roar from Pickett, and a final push that actually broke through the Union line. Unfortunately, just as it seemed the Confederates would accomplish what they set out to do, the Union would send in reserves to quell the attack. It is here that Armistead would be shot, in his upper chest area, before falling down next to a cannon. Even so, it was his men that would get farther than any others in “Pickett’s Charge”.

Every time I visit Gettysburg, and go near “The Angle”, where Armistead fell, I have to stand next to his monument that looks very plain, and simply reads, “Brigadier General Lewis Armistead Fell Here. July 3, 1863”. I stand there for a few moments, after placing a small Confederate Flag at its base, and try to take in all that he accomplished, how he could be so brave to run in front of his men, and lead them straight into a barrage of a thousand firing rifles. I always ask myself, if I could do what he did, and my answer is always, “I don’t know”. I like to think I could be as brave (I think we all do) but I just do not know. We are in a much different time frame and society, and the answer is unknown to us all. But when I pause, I am just not remembering Armistead, but the man who personified him, Richard Jordan, who did not get a chance to see the finished product of his performance, because he died in August of 1993 (Gettysburg premiered in October). Here was a great actor, who gave what I feel is the best and most complex performance in this mammoth film. According to IMDB, Ron Maxwell actually got the news of Jordan’s passing while editing Armistead’s death scene, which just adds to the irony.

And so, I make the case, nearly eighteen years later, for Richard Jordan to have received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. It does nothing now, to sit here almost two decades later, but it brings awareness to the fact that sometimes the best films/actors/actresses do not win (Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole would agree with me, I think), no matter what the case. If you have not seen Gettysburg, then obviously I encourage you to do so, because no film has had a greater impact on my life than it, and if you have seen it, then watch Jordan’s performance even closer next time, because you may be amazed at the high level of acting that can so easily be overlooked. Jordan’s performance is equal to that of John Wayne’s in The Shootist, in terms of “farewells” and that makes it all the more special.

Rest in peace to both Lewis A. Armistead (1817-1863) and Richard Jordan (1937-1993)

Release Date for “Gods and Generals” Extended Cut Possibly Slated for May 27

Thanks to a reader named Jeff, who did some searching on Germany’s Amazon website, he discovered that the Gods and Generals Director’s Cut (or Extended Cut as it is officially being being labeled) is scheduled for a May 27 release, with pre-ordering available now. However, this cannot be found on the American version of the website, nor is their a picture of the DVD cover yet available, except for this tiny image on iTunes (another find by a reader):

You can see a different design, which includes Lang as Jackson, Duvall as Lee, and Daniels as Chamberlain, with what appears to be a shot from the deleted Antietam footage pictured below. The one thing I do not understand is why Jackson gets the smallest amount of space, considering he has the most screen time in the movie. Oh well, it’s not that important anyway. I guess this is the last bit of evidence needed by the doubters as to the legitimacy of the highly anticipated director’s cut of the film. All that we really wait for now is the official announcement from Warner Brothers. Being less than three months away, I would imagine a press release to surface shortly, where hopefully we will learn of more details.

That’s all for now. Hopefully everyone had a good weekend.

EDIT: It does appear to be on the American website as well (per a reader known as “Gettysburg Resident”), but with the same information as the German one. Now that I am actually able to read the wording (understanding their language does not apply to my many talents) it appears that only a Blu Ray is available at this present time. I hope that a DVD will pop up at some point, though, because to be only put out on Blu Ray will ruin many chances of this film being able to be shown in a classroom setting, because schools have not become that technologically advanced. There is mention of a book packaged with it, so that should be a very interesting addition.

For additional reading, please view the other articles in the Civil War section.

“Gods and Generals” Extra Discusses his Filming Experience

A few weeks ago I was contacted by an extra who appeared in the film Gods and Generals, who after reading my string of articles on the coming Director’s Cut, thanked me for keeping the film alive, and also offered to tell me anything I wanted to know about his filming experience. That man was a member of the United States Military, Sergeant Benjamin Kullman, and I asked him to send me anything he wanted, and told him I would publish it. He finally got back to me today, with a long list of scenes he remembered filming, that were either shortened or omitted from the final print of the movie. There is no telling if every one of these will be in the extended cut, but it is definitely interesting nonetheless, and I sure hope they are included.

The release of this extended cut will be unprecedented, because 90 minutes (the supposed amount of time that will be added) is long enough to be a film in itself, yet alone get deleted from an entire movie. The descriptions below will finally give us an idea of what was originally filmed, after years of people guessing and assuming what Ron Maxwell shot. Sgt. Kullman has also appeared in others films, including The Pain Within, The Battle of Chantilly, No Retreat from Destiny, and a documentary titled Manasass: End of Innocence. Not related to the Civil War, he played the roles of Galileo Galilei and Alfred Wegener in Bill Nye’s 100 Greatest Discoveries. Below is his description of the many scenes he filmed as a member of the “core reenactors”, which were a separate, and more-used group from the regular reenactors used:

Thank you for your enthusiasm about Gods and Generals, and as much as you are looking forward to the release of the director’s cut of G & G, it is matched and surpassed only by those of us who worked on the film and have patiently waited to see the the result of our hard work in for what was for many of us a labor of love.  Many of us that participated in the film still feel it’s impact to this day, and look forward to having the film get the appreciation it deserves.  As a proud member of the core company of reenactors for the project, I worked on the film from September to December 2001 which was almost the entire production with the exception of the first two weeks. Since then, I have agonized to see the completed version, knowing how many incredible scenes we shot and how much of a more complete film it is.

As a historian and film buff, the production of Gods and Generals, for me, was one of the most incredible times of my life, and ended up supplying me with life-long friends within both the reenacting and film and television communities.  The production also provided me with the opportunity to go on to work on several other film and television projects over the years, and I am happy to say that I have had the honor of working with Stephen [Lang] on two different shows, and he is truly one of the most talented and nicest people you would ever meet, which is why it cracks me up every time I see him play an angry bad guy (Avatar) when his actual personality is closer to his portrayal of [George Pickett, in Gettysburg].  It has now become an inside joke to myself and almost a reality that I can no longer watch any film or TV shows dealing with the Civil War without seeing people I know.

The Core Company, to this day, are very good friends and still keep in regular contact. We even have a large amount of “behind the scenes” footage and pictures from our personal collections that really show what it was like on set, and what an amazing, funny, and meaningful time it was.  True fans would find this footage absolutely fascinating.  Ever wonder what it was like to be in the middle of one of those formations taking fire charging up the slopes of Fredericksburg?  One of my prized possessions is my paperback copy of G & G signed by almost the entire main cast, including some amazing actors who are no longer with us, like Royce D. Applegate.

I will list the scenes that I can remember, off the top of my head, that we filmed but were not included in the theatrical cut as to give you and your readers an idea of some of the things they can expect in the full cut of the film:

  • Many more scenes that take place pre-war and the aftermath of secession
  • Several scenes that take place during the build up to first Manassas, where many recruits are brought in to enlist.
  • Lots of extended dialogue pieces and scenes where [“Stonewall”] Jackson meets his staff
  • A scene that takes place outside of a theater in Richmond, during a recruitment drive, where John Wilkes Booth leaves the theater and speaks to several women. -“Don’t you know?  Mr. Booth is the finest actor in all of Richmond” . (Dialogue from the scene if memory serves). Booth is then is asked to give a rousing speech to those assembled to encourage them to enlist, the Richmond Greys (we called them blue balls), are in attendance as well as several Confederate muster officers

    The first ever look at the John Wilkes Booth character.
  • Several scenes involving the Liberty Hall Volunteers (featured during First Manassas) during which a chorus of “Cheer Boys, Cheer” is sung as we marched.  The Core Company of Reenactors learned this song, and was recorded for use in the film which we were told at the time was to be also included on the film’s soundtrack (kind of like the field music was included in “More Songs and Music from Gettysburg”)
  • A scene leading up to First Manassas in the train yard at Harper’s Ferry where Jackson purchases his horse ‘Little Sorrel’, originally for his wife (a brief glimpse of the beginning of this scene can be seen in the theatrical cut)
  • First Manassas is longer; at least it felt like we had filmed a longer sequence then has been seen
  • A much longer subplot involving the formation of the 20th Maine. Scenes in which new members of the 20th Maine are issued their uniforms and equipment with a cameo by the cook from Gettysburg (can’t recall the actor’s name but he had the line involving “Best darn cusser in all of Maine”). More scenes involving a character that was cut out of the film: a slightly overweight private that seems to have many problems dealing with his new role as a soldier. And a very funny scene in which Albert Ames is disgruntled at the lack of ability of his new troops and new field musicians that play the marches horribly (it was hard for the actual field musicians to play intentionally poorly during filming, but the scene was very amusing)
  • Of course all of Antietam, including: Lee details to his staff his reasons for invading Maryland, a picture of this scene and shots from it have appeared throughout media for the film and it’s trailer. The 20th Maine stands on a hill observing the battle as they, along with the rest of the 5th Corps, are held in reserve. The 20th Maine observes a conversation between an angered Hancock and an over-confident General McClellan. A rogue artillery shell from the battle takes the head off one of the men in the 20th Maine’s formation. Another shell impacts near the line throwing up small bits of shrapnel causing the overweight private to throw down his weapon, grasp his hand and scream.  Kilrain yells at him, in one of the best pieces of cut out dialogue, “Quit your whining! You’re making more noise than the man who lost his head, PICK UP YOUR MUSKET!”
  • A very nice scene that takes place during the night in which Jackson’s staff (as Stephen Lang called them ‘the Jackson five’) has a very funny conversation involving puns, philosophy, and some other subjects, during which JEB Stuart’s foreign aide, the Prussian, Heros von Borcke, arrives and presents Jackson with the new officer’s tunic Stuart had made, much to Jackson’ s bewilderment and embarrassment.  (I’m looking forward to the scene personally as it is the only one in which I played an officer)
  • Build up to Fredericksburg is longer with extended dialogue scenes between Couch and Hancock
  • General Hood’s scenes before Fredericksburg are much longer and more involved
  • The crossing into Fredericksburg via the pontoon bridges is longer
  • The scene where the boy is knocked down by the spent artillery shell as the family escapes the town is longer, and explains the bruise on the boys chest as his brother picks up the cannon ball and is told by Pastor Lacey to put it down
  • The scenes involving the Union plundering of Fredericksburg are longer and more detailed with several pieces of minor dialogue
  • Union assaults on the Fredericksburg heights might be longer as a lot of time was spent filming this portion of the battle
  • Lots of extended dialogue pieces all throughout the battle
  • The nights spent by the 20th Maine pinned down in front of the stone wall are longer with more dialogue, the retreat from Fredericksburg is also extended
  • Several scenes in and around the field hospitals were filmed and extended leading into the deleted scene with Jim Lewis and the grave diggers, a portion of which has already been seen and posted on your site.
  • The Minstrel show scene (Bonnie Blue Flag) is longer with more dialogue and music
  • Longer scenes around the tobacco/coffee trade including Ron Maxwell’s cameo
  • The much talked about scenes between Harrison and Booth (none of which I witnessed filming) and Lincoln attending Booth’s performance
  • Battle plans and build up to Chancellorsville longer
  • More scenes around the Chancellorsville house before the mass panic from the retreating 11th corps reaches it and the fall out afterward
  • Jackson’s death scenes are extended
Mr. Kullman with C. Thomas Howell.

I would like to thank the sergeant for sharing this with me and it truly sounds like an incredible experience. All of these scenes would seem to amount to more than 90 minutes, so it appears unlikely that everything here will be in the final cut, but we can only hope that the majority will be. We have now been waiting eight years to see this footage, and this description makes it sound like it will be worth it.

“Gods and Generals” Director’s Cut World Premiere Information

In the last two months, this blog has become the unofficial news outlet for anything and everything surrounding the Gods and Generals Director’s Cut, something that Civil War and American history enthusiasts alike have been waiting for since 2003. In November, I broke the grain-of-salt news that rumors were floating around regarding a release of the film in the first quarter of 2011. Then, after speaking to actor Brian Mallon, both through email and in our interview, he confirmed that the Cut would be coming in the spring, though the premiere is slated to be shown in July. Either way, we now have definite confirmation that it is coming this year, it’s just a matter of when.

We now have some news regarding the World Premiere, which is scheduled for July 22 and 23 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Virginia. The two-day event will feature a two-hour panel discussion with actors Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels, and Stephen Lang to be moderated by director Ronald Maxwell. This will last from 3-5 pm on the 23rd. There will then be a one-hour break before the actual film is shown, which will last from 6-11 pm. This is a highly exclusive event and you must order tickets to be allowed in. As of right now, the price and how to order is “to be determined”, but I have been in contact with one of their representatives who has added me to their email list, so any information I get will be passed on here.

I am really hoping to attend this because it seems like a once in a lifetime event. I was 12 years old and in sixth grade when I went to the movie theater with my mom to see this for the first time, and my love for this film has stayed with me all this time. The Antietam footage going in was regarded as the best footage shot for the entire movie, by all those lucky enough to have seen it. I also hope there will be some kind of a meet-and-greet with the actors, because I know Brian Mallon will be attending and I would love to get a chance to speak to him in person, after he gave such a great interview.

For more information, please visit their website, and also, check out my review of Gods and Generals.