Want a hefty sample of the much heralded and anxiously awaited movie Gods and Generals, along with the opportunity to ask questions of the director himself, nearly three weeks before the sweeping Civil War epic actually debuts in movie theatres across the nation?

Ron Maxwell, who directed and produced the movie and wrote the screenplay, will present 30 minutes of excerpts from the three hour and thirty-five minute movie, explain why and how the long-anticipated film was made, and answer audience questions during a visit to the Virginia Tech campus on Tuesday, Feb. 4. The special event, sponsored by VT's Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Commonwealth Ballroom of SquiresStudentCenter and is open to the public free of charge.

Maxwell's visit to Virginia Tech won't be his first association with the university. James I. (Bud) Robertson Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor of History at Virginia Tech and executive director of the university's Civil War center, was the leading historical consultant for the film. Robertson's award-winning biography Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend served as Maxwell's No. 1 source of material on the famous general, according to a spokesman for Ted Turner Pictures.

The book was also used extensively by Stephen Lang, who plays Jackson in the movie. When asked how he was able to portray the general so accurately, Lang responded, "I had the Bible in one hand and Bud Robertson's book in the other." Lang has indicated an interest in attending the Virginia Tech event if his schedule permits.

"The opportunity to hold this event at Virginia Tech just came together within the past few days. I am excited that we could get Ron Maxwell to come to Blacksburg for this purpose. He has done an excellent job of bringing to the screen the heartache, complex personae, and the ever-compelling drama of the Civil War. This is a fabulous film, and I know Virginians will enjoy the chance to experience a taste of it weeks before its' official release," Robertson said.

While shooting for the movie was under way, it was not unusual for Robertson to advise Robert Duvall, who plays Robert E. Lee in the film. Robertson's first meeting with the acclaimed actor was during filming in Lexington, when Duvall invited him to a private dinner. Following a discussion with Robertson, Duvall began wearing brown contact lenses so his blue eyes would look the same color as those of the Confederate general.

The movie was shot in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. Robertson was on-site for filming in several locations.

Gods and Generals, based on Jeff Shaara's novel of the same name, covers the period of the Civil War from its beginning in 1861 through 1863, climaxing with the Battle of Chancellorsville. It is the prequel to Maxwell's earlier Civil War epic, Gettysburg, which was based on the book The Killer Angels, written by Michael Shaara, Jeff's father. Maxwell plans to write the screenplay for and direct the final movie of the trilogy, a sequel to Gettysburg that will be based on Jeff Shaara's book The Last Full Measure, which picks up after the Battle of Gettysburg and ends with Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

Several U.S. senators, including Virginia Sen. George Allen, have cameo roles in the prequel, which encompasses 158 speaking roles and thousands of battlefield re-enactors. Gods and Generals illuminates heroes from both sides of the war and also tells the story of the wives and families forced to assume responsibilities at home. In addition to Lang and Duvall, the movie features Jeff Daniels, Mira Sorvino, Kevin Conway, C. Thomas Howell, and Frankie Faison.

NOTE: Photo available by contacting vtnews@vt.edu

Virginia Center for Civil War Studies

Share this story