It has been over nine years since Ronald F. Maxwell last helmed a major motion picture. The man who gave us the classic Civil War epic Gettysburg last sat in the director’s chair for that film’s prequel, Gods and Generals, which was released in 2003 to a critical thrashing, and became a failure at the box office. But the release of the Director’s Cut of the film last year has redeemed that movie, and there is hope that he may soon be able to complete his Civil War trilogy with The Last Full Measure. But for now, Mr. Maxwell is returning to the Civil War era with a more intimate story: Copperhead.
The film is based on Harold Frederic’s 1893 story The Copperhead, and tells the story of Abner Beech, a man who becomes a part of the anti-war movement in New York during the Civil War (The title of the book comes from the derogatory name given to those who spoke out against the war). Ron Maxwell had this to say about the story:
- Harold Frederic’s The Copperhead (1899), which the great American critic Edmund Wilson praised as a brave and singular book that “differs fundamentally from any other Civil War fiction,” is the story of Abner Beech, a stubborn and righteous farmer of upstate New York, who defies his neighbors and his government in the bloody and contentious autumn of 1862. The Copperhead is a story of the violent passions and burning feuds that set ablaze the home front, a timeless and deeply moving examination of the price of dissent, the place of the individual amidst the hysteria of wartime, and the awful cost of war–a cost measured not in dollars but in fractured families, broken loves, and men dead before their time (Maxwell).
The screenplay is written by Bill Kauffmann, with Maxwell serving as producer and director. Filming is slated to begin in May, with major location shooting to take place at King’s Landing Historical Settlement in New Brunswick, Canada. Maxwell has stated that his plan is to have the film ready for release in late 2012 or early 2013. The production of Copperhead is being closely followed by my friend and To Appomattox colleague Greg Caggiano. You can find out more about the production with the “Copperhead Chronicles” on his blog.
Personally, I am very fascinated by this little film. It will take us into a different side of the Civil War, when men in the North stood against the conflict that would eventually reunite the United States, and end the scourge of slavery in America. With this film, we will finally understand why men chose to speak out against the conflict, and became the source of contempt during and after the war. I, for one, cannot wait to see Copperhead!
Maxwell, Ron. “Meanderings through historical fiction.” The American Spectator 2010 (The Free Library by Farlex Website, 2012), http://www.thefreelibrary.com/RON+MAXWELL.-a0245396059