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Antietam scenes won't be in movie

February 06, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The Battle of Antietam scenes filmed for "Gods and Generals" will not appear in the theater version of the Civil War movie but will be in the six-hour DVD version of the film, director Ron Maxwell said at a preview of the movie Wednesday night.

The Battle of Antietam scenes, as well as others, had to be cut to reduce the length of the movie, Maxwell said during the screening at Shepherd College's Frank Center Theater.

"Warner Brothers wasn't going to release a movie that was as long as 'Gettysburg,'" said Maxwell, referring to his previous Civil War movie.

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That movie was 4 hours and 40 minutes long, Maxwell said.

"Gods and Generals" was edited down to a length of 4 hours and 15 minutes, and reduced again to 3 hours and 35 minutes with an intermission, Maxwell said.

Cutting the Battle of Antietam scenes, which were shot on 3,000 acres of farmland between Lexington, Va., and Staunton, Va., were the result of some hard choices that had to be made in the production, Maxwell said.

"We didn't take Antietam out just because they didn't like it. A lot of things had to be cut out," Maxwell said.

Part of the cutting process involved "market testing," Maxwell said.

Through market testing, the appeal of the movie was gauged by having groups of people view the film in Missouri and North Carolina in August and September, Maxwell said.

About 10 percent to 15 percent of those who viewed it thought it was too long, Maxwell said.

The preview screening was described as an "impression" of the film. Different segments of the film were put together for the impression, which lasted about 30 minutes.

The preview opened with a scene that was shot at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town, W.Va., last summer.

The scene was one in which Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, played by actor Robert Duvall, informed members of the Virginia Hall of Delegates that he would lead the Virginia military in the conflict.

Scenes for the movie also were filmed in Martinsburg, W.Va., Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and the Austin Flook farm in Washington County.

During the local filming, Maxwell said he often relied on Mark Snell, director of Shepherd College's George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, for help in making the film.

Snell "had a lot to say, and I listened," Maxwell said.

The theater at the Frank Center Theater was about three-quarters full for the screening.

Tickets were $10, $5 for Shepherd staff and faculty and free for Shepherd students.

Accompanying Maxwell was actor Sean Pratt, who played Dr. Hunter McGuire, Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's personal physician during the war.

Pratt said he is happy with the film, which is scheduled for release Feb. 21.

"What I've seen is really wonderful," Pratt said.

Pratt and Maxwell took questions from the audience after the preview.

After donning Civil War uniforms and climbing onto horses in the middle of wide-open farms to create the movie, the feeling of the Civil War naturally came over the actors, Pratt said.

"There was very little acting in this picture," Pratt said.

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