Re-enactors take to battlefield ahead of schedule

GOOD MORNING: This is one American movie that won’t be filmed in Toronto, Vancouver — or any place other than in the U.S. And while principal photography isn’t skedded to start until Aug. 28, three cameras were rolling last weekend in Leesburg, Va., for “Gods and Generals.” Howcum? Close to 10,000 “re-enactors” were involved in the 140th anniversary of the first Manassas battle of the Civil War, and this movie’s a prequel to the successful “Gettysburg,” the Turner Pictures feature of September 1993 that Daily Variety‘s reviewer said “succeeded as a motion picture event and as a re-creation of a pivotal chapter of American history. After a summer of flash and sizzle, audiences may be ready for a healthy dose of substance.” And mebbe next fall as well? Robert Duvall plays Robert E. Lee in “Gods and Generals” and while he was not yet at work on the epic, he showed up at the Leesburg site to observe the battle’s re-enactment. The event will be woven into the scenes that writer-producer-director Ronald F. Maxwell has yet to shoot. The film is based on Jeff Shaara’s bestseller about the early years of the Civil War (pre-Gettysburg). Shaara acknowledges his indebtedness to Maxwell for suggesting and encouraging him to continue the trilogy of Civil War stories that was his father Michael Shaara’s legacy. Maxwell also plans to film Jeff Shaara’s book about the battle of Spotsylvania, “The Last Full Measure,” after “Gods and Generals” … Jeff Daniels will reprise his “Gettysburg” role of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, as will C. Thomas Howell as Tom Chamberlain. Robert Rehme, Robert Katz and Moctesuma Esparza repeat their “Gettysburg” chores as exec producers on “Gods and Generals”; Nick Grillo and Ronald G. Smith produce. The production company, which also includes Civil War buff Ted Turner, is contributing up to $1 million “to acquire an endangered Civil War battlefield.” Re-enactors who participate in this film will have the opportunity to have their names inscribed on a permanent monument on the site of this battlefield — which will be available to the community as a “home for future re-enactments and tacticals.”

JAMES GANDOLFINI AS DAVID BEGELMAN in “Indecent Exposure”? Although Gandolfini did the July 22 N.Y. reading of Michael Thomas’ film script version of the David McClintick book, he won’t do the pic. Gandolfini next will be seen as the brutal, corrupt prison warden co-starring with Robert Redford in Rod Lurie’s “The Castle” and in the Coen brothers’ “The Man Who Wasn’t There” with Billy Bob Thornton. Gandolfini will take time off until the October start of the fourth season of “The Sopranos.” While he has an original five-year pact, he’s expressed a reluctance to play the role beyond this coming season … As you may well imagine, the entire “Sopranos” company is shaken by the indictment of 16-year-old Robert Iler on charges that he and two teenagers robbed two other boys of $40. Iler reportedly earns $20,000 per “Sopranos” seg. He has assured the series producers that “he did not participate” in the reported robbery … Blake Edwards says it’s unlikely he will be able to attend Wednesday’s presentation of the Rhode Island Intl. Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award at the Columbus Theater in Providence,. He says he has pneumonia and is taking heavy antibiotics. He says he came down with it by working through the night on three major projects: a heavy drama for the stage, “Scapegoat,” about the devil and a woman psychoanalyst, as well as the comedy musical version of “The Pink Panther” and, for the screen, a sequel to “10” — “10-1/2.” Edwards’ wife, Julie Andrews, will be at the Rhode Island fest in his stead. Edwards is delighted with the success of Andrews’ “Princess Diaries,” which had a whopping opening weekend of $23.2 million. And Blake also admits he was “mystified” that Garry Marshall would do a G-rated pic. But, of course, all concerned are delighted that he did.

BERNIE BRILLSTEIN WILL BE HONORED with the Casting Society of America’s Career Achievement Award at its 17th annual award ceremony Oct. 4 at the Century Plaza Hotel. Martin Short, who coincidentally is a client and longtime pal, will make the presentation. Also to be honored is Wallis Nicita, a former casting director, now producer-director, who will receive the CSA’s Hoyt Bowers Award, named for one of the most respected casting directors in the history of filmmaking. Kevin Costner will make the presentation to Nicita … Even before “Rush Hour 2” was completed, producer Arthur Sarkissian told us of plans for “Rush 3.” “Jackie and Chris have a chemistry that is rare and magical — and fans recognize this and are responding at the box office.” P.S.: He also credits the success to director Brett Ratner. Sarkissian will be honored by the Armenian Film Foundation at the AFFMA Intl. Film Fest, Sept. 23 at the Sheraton Universal. Competing in the fest is the docu “The Living Century” produced by Christopher Carson, Steven Latham, Cis Corman and Barbra Streisand. Jack Lemmon hosted and narrated this, his last film work. Rose Freedman, grandmother of 20th-Fox TV’s Dana Waldon, was among those profiled in the docu. It will be shown at the fest Sept. 22 at Raleigh Studios.

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