'Gods and Generals' filming delayed

October 25, 1997


Staff Writer

Filming of the Civil War motion picture "Gods and Generals" will not likely begin in Washington County until at least the summer of 1999, filmmaker Ronald Maxwell said Friday.

Maxwell, who two months ago predicted filming could start by late next year, said the extra time will allow him to complete another movie overseas and make the required financial and logistical preparations for "Gods and Generals." He said he also will work on various local projects, including the creation of a permanent movie studio and annual film festival in the Hagerstown area, that are being established in conjunction with the movie.

He denied there are any delays in the production and said he was pleased with efforts both locally and in Hollywood to raise the $30 million to $40 million that will be needed to produce the movie.


"I'm thrilled with the pace," said Maxwell, a Los Angeles resident who recently leased a home in the Sharpsburg area.

Maxwell was in the county the past two days on business related to the movie, including searching for shooting locations and a site for the movie studio. One possible studio location, which meets the requirement of having a ceiling at least 30 feet tall, is the Topflight Airpark Park at Washington County Regional Airport.

"We'd much rather find an existing building in the area and renovate it than go out and find farmland and muck it up with buildings, no matter how beautiful they may be," he said.

The movie production also will include the construction of a mock 19th century village somewhere in the county to film outdoor scenes for the movie and television shows.

"Gods and Generals," based on Jeffrey Shaara's novel of the same name, follows several key players in the Civil War in the years leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. It would be a prequel to the 1993 epic "Gettysburg," which was based on the novel "The Killer Angels."

State officials estimate the movie will generate between $12 million and $15 million to the county in hotel room rentals, food, transportation, construction and other expenses.

To cover pre-production costs of the movie, such as location selection and script preparation, a $500,000 line of credit has been provided by Farmers and Merchants Bank and Trust. But the bank is requiring that the loan be guaranteed in case the movie producers can not pay back the money.

The entire $500,000 guarantee has been raised by local governments, businesses and private donors, Maxwell said. He expects the money to be available sometime in November, once the paperwork is completed.

More daunting is the remainder of the budget, but Maxwell said he already has had discussions with Ted Turner that could have the billionaire media mogul's film company paying for up to half of the film's cost.

"Ted is very much backing this project," Maxwell said.

Negotiations with Turner could take months, but Maxwell said once they are complete it will give him the leverage needed to secure financing for the rest of the budget, hopefully by next spring.

The cost of the movie will vary depending on the cost of the actors hired for the film, he said. All of the principal players in "Gettysburg," such as Jeff Daniels and Martin Sheen, have expressed interest in reprising their roles in "Gods and Generals," Maxwell said.

But first Maxwell is scheduled to shoot a movie about Joan of Arc in Europe during the spring and early summer of next year, followed by film editing and other post-production work, he said.

But there could be a benefit in pushing the filming of "Gods and Generals" back to 1999, he said. That might allow the movie to filmed along with the sequel to "The Killer Angels," which Shaara has recently written and is scheduled to be published next year.

Maxwell said he and Shaara will be involved in the other movie-related projects in the area, including the historical film festival - scheduled for debut in November of 1999 - and the construction of a large-screen IMAX movie theater to show the Civil War trilogy. He said he can foresee both he and Shaara eventually owning homes in the area.

"For Jeff Shaara and I, it's a lifetime commitment," he said.

Staff writer Laura Ernde contributed to this story.

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