Movie previewed

'G&G' screening draws hundreds

'G&G' screening draws hundreds

February 12, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

About 825 people - some wearing tuxedos, others in period costumes - gathered Tuesday at The Maryland Theatre to view the state's premiere of the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals."

The crowd at the Hagerstown theater was enthusiastic when Dennis Frye, a local Civil War expert and an associate producer of the film, introduced some of those involved in making the movie.

"Gods and Generals" was partially filmed in Washington County, edited in California and on Tuesday night returned to Washington County, Frye said before the movie began.


"I hope everyone here and everyone in this community has pride today and pride forever in this endeavor. This is your film," Director Ronald F. Maxwell said.

"This is our film," Frye agreed.

The world premiere of the movie, which is 3 hours and 35 minutes long with an intermission, was Monday in Washington, D.C. The West Virginia premiere is tonight.

Maxwell said the reaction at Monday's world premiere exceeded his expectations, with the audience crying and laughing at the appropriate times and giving "thunderous applause" at its conclusion.

At a reception before the screening, lead actor Stephen Lang signed autographs. "This town opened its heart to us in every way and it is not just our movie but it is also their movie," he said.

"Gods and Generals," a prequel to Maxwell's movie, "Gettysburg," follows the life of Gen. Stonewall Jackson, played by Lang, through the early days of the Civil War.

Maryland Theatre Executive Director Pat Wolford said 501 people paid $130 to see the movie and attend the reception at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. A catering company, with employees dressed in period costumes, served a dinner that included smoked salmon and shrimp scampi in white wine.

A ticket for the movie alone was $65.

Charles Hine of Charles Town, W.Va., said he taught history, including that of the Civil War, for 37 years in the Jefferson County School District before retiring as a full-time educator.

He said he jumped at the chance to see the Maryland premiere of the movie, which he called a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Hine was standing in line before the screening, trying to get a look at movie-related memorabilia.

Behind Hine in line was Barbara Heatwole of Eldersburg, Md., and her husband, Galen, who is a Civil War enthusiast.

For their 25th wedding anniversary in January, Barbara Heatwole bought her husband two $65 tickets for the movie, which he said was the perfect present.

"I am looking forward to this immensely," Galen Heatwole said.

Wearing military uniforms at the reception were re-enactors Mike Colisimo of Pittsburgh and Ben Killman of Springfield, Va.

The men were part of the movie's core acting company, described by Frye as "the best of the best."

As paid extras in the movie, they played both Union and Confederate soldiers. On more than one occasion, Killman said, he played soldiers from both sides on the same day of filming.

He said a careful observer of the film might notice something unusual: "We do fire on ourselves a few times."

Watching himself on screen, as he did at the Monday and Tuesday screenings, "is a rush," Killman said.

The Washington County Commissioners and the city of Hagerstown guaranteed a bank loan of $300,000 to Maxwell for the movie, which was filmed in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

The movie cost more than $50 million to make. Washington County officials estimate it generated about $10 million for the county economy.

"Gods and Generals," which also stars Jeff Daniels and Robert Duvall, opens nationwide Feb. 21.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said it was exciting to have a movie make a debut in Hagerstown.

"How often does Hollywood come to Hagerstown?" Snook said.

There were times during the last five years when some doubted the movie would be made and released.

"Seldom do visions become reality," Frye said at the reception. "Tonight, the skeptics are proven fools."

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