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Apollo hosts W.Va. movie debut

February 13, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Call it a cruel twist.

The West Virginia premiere of the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals" was held Wednesday night before a sold-out crowd of 550 at the Apollo Civic Theatre, but scenes that had been shot inside the building were cut.

A block away at the reception in the Gateway Inn, 350 men and women in gowns and ties mingled, ate and asked for autographs. Scenes shot there also were edited out of the movie.

Both the theater and Gateway Inn were used to film a subplot involving John Wilkes Booth. "Gods and Generals" director Ronald Maxwell said that although the scenes did not make it into the theatrical version of the movie, they will be in the DVD edition.

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An hour before showtime, the Apollo was nearly deserted save for a young couple seated four rows back from the screen.

Whitney Thompson wanted to make sure she got her boyfriend, Stephen Jenkins, the perfect Christmas gift.

"I was the first person who called for tickets," Thompson said, explaining the couple's choice seats.

Jenkins, a history major at Shepherd College, agreed with Thompson that he was especially looking forward to seeing the scenes shot in the couple's home, Jefferson County.

Those scenes, including many shot in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., did not end up on the cutting room floor, Maxwell said.

"People who know Harpers Ferry will recognize it," Maxwell said, as he took a break during the reception to eat some roast beef and answer a reporter's questions.

Harpers Ferry not only portrayed itself in the movie, but also was used to depict Fredericksburg, Va., as it would have appeared during the Civil War.

Actors who attended the reception included Stephen Lang (Stonewall Jackson), Kali Rocha (Anna Jackson), Donnalee Abernathy (Martha), Brian Mallon (General Hancock) and Karen Hochstetter (Roberta Corbin).

"Gods and Generals," a prequel to "Gettysburg," will be released nationwide on Feb. 21. The theater version of the film is more than three and a half hours long.

The movie belongs to the people who live in towns like Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry, which played an important role during the war, Maxwell said. He sensed that during the reception, he said.

"You and I can feel it, the pride that's in this room," he said. "This movie is more than entertainment" and connects with people in a "deep, personal, intimate way."

Although West Virginia "absolutely" could play a part in the sequel to "Gods and Generals," titled "The Last Full Measure," Maxwell said he could not be more specific at this time.

Jeff Shaara, who wrote the book of the same name upon which "Gods and Generals" is based, said he hopes people will not be too disappointed that the Martinsburg scenes will only be on the DVD.

"The most important thing for me as a writer is walking the ground" where historical events occurred, Shaara said during an interview at the reception. "I could not have written the books without coming here."

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