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Actor remembers Hagerstown experience with fondness

July 25, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HALFWAY -- Eight years later, Stephen Lang still remembers Hagerstown for its good restaurants, good bookstores and open arms.

The actor who played Gen. Stonewall Jackson in "Gods and Generals" returned to Washington County on Saturday to speak at a Civil War seminar at the Plaza Hotel in Halfway.

Pat Falci, a historical coordinator on "Gods and Generals" and actor who played Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill in "Gettysburg," also spoke.

The seminar was part of a Civil War program offered by the Greater Chambersburg (Pa.) Chamber of Commerce from Wednesday through today.

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During an interview before his presentation, Lang said of Hagerstown, "I remember very well it being a town that welcomed the movie and feeling very at home here."

His feelings about the movie, though, are mixed -- largely because of negative reviews and poor public reception. It made just $13 million at the box office.

"'Gods and Generals' is a very, very bittersweet experience for me because I'm so proud of the work we did, the effort we put into it ..." Lang said. "The entire experience was so colored and tinted by 9/11, which happened at the beginning of filming ... In some way, it lent a real gravitas, which was there already when you're doing a film like this, but it made it seem even more important, in a way, to cherish and to articulate our history, what makes our country great."

Lang said he would have preferred the movie wasn't close to four hours long, but it wasn't his call.

"Also," he said, "it was seen, I think, by some, as an apology, in some way, for the South, which it never was intended and wasn't. It was supposed to be an historical depiction."

Most of "Gods and Generals" was filmed in Washington County.

The movie, which follows Jackson's life during the early part of the Civil War, was a prequel to "Gettysburg."

Director Ron Maxwell planned to make a third part, "Last Full Measure," but never did.

"I'm the eternal optimist ..." Lang said. "I hope that there comes a day when 'The Last Full Measure' will happen. I throw my glove in the ring for Robert E. Lee on that."

Lang is in "Public Enemies," in which Johnny Depp portrays gangster John Dillinger.

Lang has two other movies coming out this year.

One is James Cameron's "Avatar." Lang was just in San Diego, helping to promote "Avatar" at the Comic-Con convention.

The other is called "The Men Who Stare at Goats," with George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. Lang said it's a pointed satire about paranoia, comparable to "Dr. Strangelove."

Lang also has written a screenplay, but said it's probably a little too long.

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