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'Gods and Generals' director still hasn't paid loan to Washington County

County officials say they're looking into legal action against Ron Maxwell

August 21, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • "Gods and Generals" Director Ronald Maxwell, with headphones, is shown in this 2001 photo as he watches the monitors during a day of filming at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. At left is Kees Van Oostrum, who was director of photography on the film. County officials said they are considering litigation against Maxwell as a loan to him is past due.
File photo

Nine years after borrowing $300,000 from Washington County, director Ron Maxwell still owes about $263,000 in principal and interest.

Maxwell borrowed the money in 2002, after making the Civil War film “Gods and Generals” in the Tri-State area, including Washington County.

The loan agreement gave Maxwell until 2005 to start working on another Civil War film, based on Jeff Shaara’s book “The Last Full Measure,” and to produce at least half of it in Washington County. Otherwise, Maxwell would have to repay the money, with interest, by 2010.

Records show that Maxwell last made a payment more than three years ago.

“We are in discussions with Mr. Maxwell to try to get it paid,” Assistant County Attorney Andrew F. Wilkinson said last week.

The Herald-Mail tried through various channels on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to ask Maxwell for comment, but couldn’t reach him.

The Herald-Mail previously reviewed the progress of the loan repayment for a story in 2007.

At the time, Maxwell had paid about $39,000. County Attorney John M. Martirano said then that Maxwell missed payment deadlines and the county was considering a lawsuit to collect on the debt.

After that story was published and word of the loan debt spread through coverage by The Associated Press, Maxwell faxed a letter accusing the newspaper of giving a misleading account. He wrote: “Let’s set the record straight for the good people of Washington County. The loan is being repaid. The entire amount will be repaid in the most amicable manner.”

At about the same time Maxwell sent the letter, he made a $20,000 payment on the loan.

He then made two more $20,000 payments in 2007 and one on June 2, 2008, county records show.

Wilkinson said the county has spoken with Maxwell on and off since then. The talks have been “more in earnest in the last two months,” as the topic of a lawsuit again came up, Wilkinson said.

“We are considering litigation right now,” he said.

Wilkinson said Maxwell hasn’t given an exact reason for failing to make a payment in three years.

In his 2007 letter, which was published as a letter to the editor, Maxwell wrote that after three years, there was no financing for “The Last Full Measure.”

“The Last Full Measure” was to be the final part of a trilogy that started with “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals.”

The movie industry website www.IMDb.com says “Gods and Generals” cost about $56 million to make. It took in about $13 million domestically, but a director’s cut DVD of nearly six hours, twice the length of the theater version, was more popular.

Because of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a new “Gods and Generals” collector’s edition DVD set was released last month, according to a summary on Amazon.com.

“Gettysburg,” released in 1993, cost about $25 million to make and had a domestic gross of about $11 million, the website says.

“Gods and Generals” was considered a “prequel” to “Gettysburg.”

In 1997, Washington County and the city of Hagerstown backed $300,000 out of a loan to Antietam Filmworks, Maxwell’s company. That loan was repaid.

After “Gods and Generals” was made, the county commissioners voted 4-1 to loan Maxwell another $300,000 toward the production of “The Last Full Measure.” The only commissioner who voted against the loan was William J. Wivell.

After three years, if “The Last Full Measure” was not in production and being made locally, Maxwell was to repay the money quarterly, at 4.5 percent annual interest.

According to Wilkinson and other county officials, county records show that Maxwell paid:

  • $19,107 on June 26, 2006
  • $20,000 on April 4, 2007
  • $20,000 on May 18, 2007
  • $20,000 on June 25, 2007
  • $20,000 on Nov. 14, 2007
  • $19,107 on June 2, 2008.

After paying $118,214, Maxwell still owes $181,786 on the principal amount.

Including interest, Maxwell’s outstanding debt is $263,041, Wilkinson said last week.

The Herald-Mail tried to reach Maxwell through contacts listed in the 2002 loan agreement.

The Washington County office of Ron Maxwell Productions, in place during the filming of “Gods and Generals,” is no longer there. A fax to that number last week didn’t go through.

The California Secretary of State’s business entity database has a listing for Ron Maxwell Productions in Culver City, Calif.

However, the corporation was suspended Sept. 1, 2004, by the California Franchise Tax Board.

Denise Azimi, a spokeswoman for the board, said Ron Maxwell Productions didn’t file a 2001 state tax return.

Vivian Anderson, a California accountant listed as being connected to Ron Maxwell Productions on the loan agreement, said last week that she hasn’t worked with the company since then.

She said she thinks Maxwell has another film-production company now. A phone number listed online for the company name she gave did not work.

Phone messages and a fax sent to the California law firm Weissmann, Wolff, Bergman, Coleman, Grodin & Evall, LLP — also listed on the loan agreement as being connected to Ron Maxwell Productions — were not returned or acknowledged.

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