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Star-watching could be favorite pastime

August 27, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

Hagerstown and Washington County are expected to go Hollywood in a big way when filming of the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals" begins.

The movie could bring with it the star-watching of seeing big-name actors like Martin Sheen and Jeff Daniels, as well as providing jobs on both sides of the camera for local people, officials said Wednesday.

Of the as many as 200 speaking parts in the movie, some are expected to go local people, said director Ronald F. Maxwell.

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"There absolutely will be casting calls here in Hagerstown and probably in Baltimore," he said.

Local people also could find there way into the movie by becoming one of the as many as 10,000 re-enactors needed in the movie's large battle scenes.

The $30 million to $40 million movie, based on the novel by Jeff Shaara, is expected to begin shooting in county as early as next spring, if financial commitments are made, Maxwell said.

Like Maxwell's previous Civil War movie, "Gettysburg," which was released in 1993, the director also hopes to make use of local people as production assistants and other behind-the-scenes roles. Some of the locals who worked on producing "Gettysburg" even stayed in the movie business and moved to Los Angeles after the movie was shot, he said.

"Gettysburg" featured Sheen, Daniels and other actors Maxwell is hoping to bring back for "Gods and Generals." He also will have to cast an actor for the part of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, as well as women's and children's roles that didn't exist in "Gettysburg."

Maxwell said one benefit from a movie could be a reawakening among many local people about the Civil War heritage here. He said he saw a similar phenomenon with "Gettysburg," which prompted some local people to tour the battlefield there for the first time.

"It's almost like people who live in Manhattan who never went to the Statue of Liberty," he said.

"Gods and Generals" would not be the first time the city and county have hosted film crews, but it would be the first time the bulk of a major motion picture is shot here. Past screen county credits include scenes from the movies "Sweet Dreams" and "Guarding Tess."

County Planning Director Robert Arch said officials already are going over logistical issues that will have to be addressed with such a large-scale filming.

"There are some inconveniences that will happen occasionally. There could be temporary disruptions in traffic patterns. People usually find that's well worth it for what it brings to the community in economic help and the general excitement it generates," said Michael Styer, director of the Maryland Film Office.

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