Matthew McConaughey Joins Civil War Drama ‘Free State of Jones’

'Free State of Jones': Matthew McConaughey
Ernesto Ruscio/Getty

Matthew McConaughey is heading to Civil War drama “Free State Of Jones” with “The Hunger Games” director Gary Ross on board to helm.

Jon Kilik, Scott Stuber and Gary Ross are producing the $65 million project, scheduled for shooting in the first quarter of next year.

Robert Simonds’ still-unnamed studio, dubbed STX by many, and IM Global are in talks to co-finance.

If the deal goes through, STX would be taking domestic rights and IM Global would have international rights, which are being discussed at AFM. CAA is brokering the domestic deal.

McConaughey will play Newton Knight, a soldier who flees the battlefields after being disillusioned by the horrors that touched his own family. On the run, he rallies the support of fellow deserters to lead an uprising against their former comrades, in the process creating a free safe haven.

News was first reported by Deadline.com.

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  1. Mary B says:

    Newt Knight, leader of Tapley Bynum. His daughter, Amanda Elizabeth Bynum Sims, married Thomas C. Bryant “Jr”.
    Thomas was a blood relative of country singer Luke Bryan

  2. Rick Ates says:

    My two gg uncles James and Thomas Ates were part of Newts company. Captured by Col Lowery’s men in 1864, given a quick trial and hanged. at Knights Mill This may be the only time in the Civil War that brothers were hanged together….I’m looking forward to this movie…

  3. Jennifer Smith says:

    I am a descendant of Newt Knight. My grandmother, Audrey Crosby Knight, was the grand-daughter of Newt Knight. She was the daughter of John “Hinchie” Knight, who was the son of Newt and Rachel. This is a story that my family is very proud of and we have worked very hard to keep it alive throughout the generations. I am so glad that it will be re-told in a manner that will reach so many. Matthew McConaughey is a fantastic choice for Newt. I can’t wait to see my great great grandparents come alive on the big screen!

  4. Debbie says:

    The real Deason Home where the infamous murder took place is holding an open house on May 16, 2015 from 4-7 pm in Ellisville, MS. Won’t you join us as the DAR tells their version of the facts the night that fatal blast rang out. They have fought diligently to preserve this home that needs thousands of dollars to preserve the oldest home in our county.

  5. Ann says:

    Matthew McConaughey was my favorite actor but not now! I am greatly disappointed in the role he is playing, especially him being a Texan, shame on him. I don’t care if there were some Yankee Texans, the state was Confederate and it’s people were proud. Will not watch the movie nor will I ever watch him in a movie again.

  6. Steve Knight says:

    Well, don’t know where the producers expect to find hills and hollers in south La. That place is flatter than my exes behind! Must gonna be the “magic” of cinematography! We do still have the Deason house here. Would be nice if they used the real thing instead of a set.

  7. howdygal says:

    Any word yet about who will play the roles for the Collin’s family? They are the real story here! Father Collins and almost all of his sons fought against the confederacy…a few of the brothers were in east Texas as well during the war fighting for the same principles. The Mississippi brothers settled in Texas after it was all over….One of them being Morgan Columbus Collins…my great-great grandfather! :) I can’t wait for the movie -even if Hollywood does try and make the movie about an inter-racial relationship…at least it will preserve the story to some extent for future generations!

  8. beverly says:

    I finally found it. lol My great grandmother, Ms. Zorada knight Blackwell was Knewt Knights first cousin.

  9. Beverly E. D. says:

    I was wrong. My great grandmother Zoraid Knight was Newt Knights niece. She married Richard M. Blackwell. But anyway, we can’t wait to see the movie. It’ll be interesting.

  10. Graham CT says:

    I have a signed copy of Ethel Knights “Echo of the Black Horn” my grandmother gave me many years ago. I was telling folks I thought it would be a great movie back in the seventies. Start the movie in a courtroom in Ellisville Mississippi with the trial trying to determine how much Negro blood was acceptable to be married to a white,,,,,then fade to the sale of Rachel. And the story begins. Im sure there will be some “embellishments” but please don’t say something about a CRICK, or YOUALL. Hey film it here and get the real personality of the area!!!!

    • Gene Pitts says:

      My Grandmother, Mini Knight Pitts, knew the man Newt Knight when she was about 10 years old. When Ronald Parrish, my Mississippi history teacher at West Jones High and former District Attorney introduced the chapter about Jones county I presented to her on that Friday. She opened the book, read about three pages, slammed the book closed and quote”This book is Wrong!” I took notes from her for about 2 hours. Monday class started when Mr. Parrish read the first page and I raised my hand. He ask me for my question and I read him my notes. He stated that “That’s not in the book”. I replied what my grandmother said and that she knew the man. He looked at the text book and instructed the class to read the next chapter. A few years later a group of collage students visited the county and the elderly. My Grandmother and every older person with reconciliation of the history, to wright a thesis on the ‘Free State Of Jones’. Ms Victoria E. Bynum may have been one of them for I found her book ‘The Free State of Jones’ in the local N.W.Vista Community(junior) Collage library a few years ago, read it and hoped a GOOD movie could be made for the ‘STATE of JONES’. A Drama/Action/Documentary concept with McConaughey getting the “vocabulary” (by Steve Knight) right would be a ‘home’ movie for Jones County.

  11. Steve Knight says:

    Well, I live in the heart of Cracker’s Neck, andI’m gonna reserve any comment til I see the movie. However, if any of you Hollywood folks want somebody for “speech lessons”, give me a call!

  12. Unreal… that is all true & soooooo close to home. The olé Newton knight homestead is 3 miles from my house…

  13. Jessica Spivey says:

    @april I agree with you there, he definitely doesn’t look the type. McConnaughey is way too pretty for this part- but maybe he’ll surprise us. Did you see Mud? I was pleased with him there- and it felt right as far as Southern goes. I just hope they don’t portray us all as a bunch of ignorant hicks. Also, you and I are related, so that’s kinda cool :)

    • Lavahn Moss says:

      This will just be a movie. Hollywood will present a negative picture of Mississippi. This interest in Knight is based on passed down stories about the details of life that none of us know about because we were not living during the War Between the States. This story about Newt Knight continues to entertain some folks. Jones County did not secede from the state of Mississippi. Thus Jones County is not the “the free state of Jones”. This band of men were few in number and had no broad impact on twbts. Only activities that were local in scope took place with the murder of Major McLemore being the climax. Newt Knight’s legacy will continue generation after generation until the end. He had to be a tough man who went into a survival mode. He managed to eke out a living during a hard time in the history of Jones County. Many of the Knights from the Big Creek Community, Hebron and the “Neck” which is an area of Jones County near the Leaf River and Soso in Northwest Jones County have lived and are still living productive and useful lives. Hollywood will look at the bottom line which is profit from invested money which the actors will take home with them. I hope the movie will not discredit the good Knight name nor our community, county, or state. Most members of the CSA fought for family, land, and other personal reasons. The truth about Newt Knight is the same as for all humanity. He may have done some bad things and a few good things. Jones County and Mississippi are the two best kept secrets in the USA. Let the liberal media, Hollywood, and ivy towered professors continue to think bad about us and we will continue to live the good southern life. I had ancestors that fought on both sides but if I happened to be living in 1862 I would have fought for the good ole south. I am proud of my community, county, and state. Don’t get caught up or expect too much from this movie.

      • Lavahn Moss says:

        This entertainment piece will not be filmed in Mississippi much less Jones county. Just like I predicted earlier – profit motive reason for film not facts. Get ready for the romanticism of the movie which in realty is nothing like the 1860’s and later.It is ironic that a yankee by the name of Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin which caused a demand for more cotton which created a demand for more labor. The gin followed by more technology would have ended slavery. The causes of the war between the states are numerous. Do you think 95 % of the csa army would have fought for 5% of the population to own another human being? The yanks were so concerned about their fellow man that many Yankees paid for replacements to serve in their place. History books are written by the victors. I encourage everyone to study and do independent research. Don’t rely on a college instructor to present all the facts. The college instructor teaches what they were taught usually by a liberal. Southerners generally treat others on an individual basis while Northerners relate to groups. The south is used by the north as a door mat but minds are now realizing the racism that exists by the northern interest groups. God bless all you Jones County Knights. By the way, I have picked cotton and did a better job than these mechanical cotton pickers. I am Lavahn Moss responding to those who thought the Newt Knight movie would be filmed in Jones County.

      • Julia Burns says:

        Don’t tell the secrets of the real story… I have fun telling it (embellished of course) to children. i know shouldn’t embellish history.. but it is fun. If I am not mistaken, James Street “Tap Roots” with Ethel Knights “Echo of the Black Horn” has been such a controversial delight for years, just like the old lady scout with the pig in the woods— Grandmother Elifair Childs Dykes Chains…. or the Dykes, Chains, and the Sullivan boys getting in the “gut stabbing fight at Battle of Shiloh” (drunken brawl at Shiloh Church in Mize, Mississippi.) It all makes enjoyable folklore.

  14. April King says:

    I cannot imagine Jake Brigance playing Uncle Newt……………..McConnaughey isn’t tall, big or rough enough to play Newt Knight – and I* just don’t think Newt’s voice would be as high or in the range as Matthew’s. When I see pictures of Newt, he just looks like someone with a lower voice. I am truly excited about this story being brought to the big screen, but NOT about how Jasper, Jones and Covington countians will be portrayed. And I absolutely DREAD the attempts at ‘sounding like us’……….. Newt was the paternal uncle to my great-grandmother – I believe Newt and her father were brothers. I have heard stories – both good and bad – all my life about Uncle Newt. He would be one of the 5 people I would love to sit on a bench and talk to if I could chose. I just hope Hollywood doesn’t take too many liberties or embellish the stories and tales too much.

  15. Jessica Spivey says:

    I’m very excited. I’m a descendant as well. I own 70 acres in Jones County, and my grandfather (Curt Knight) is buried in the same cemetery as Newt Knight.

    • Andrea M. Wilson says:

      Jessica, I am the great, great niece of Newt Knight. My grandfather, Daniel Franklin Knight was the son of Newt’s youngest brother, Zachery Taylor Knight. We have other relatives buried in the same cemetery. I have heard there is a problem of getting into the cemetery from the locals that live right near the fenced in area. Do you know that for a fact or is it just a tactic to keep the public out? I want to take some photos of the area. Thanks for the info. Andrea M. Wilson

  16. Henrietta says:

    I am so excited about the prospect of this little-known story’s being brought to the screen. My mother grew up there; I have a house and property there. The story has always intrigued me. There are conflicting views and versions of the events. I will be curious to see how the movie line is handled. Hopefully a small positive view of Civil War Mississippians..but who knows.

  17. Andrea L. Martin Wilson says:

    I am thrilled that the book of the ‘Free State of Jones’, with the help of Victoria Bynum’s literary investigation, will be in movie form soon. Matthew McConaughey will play this role very well. He has the qualities of a ‘rebel’, yet the compassionate side that sends him back home to Jones Ct. to care for his people and their homes, who have been all but destroyed by the Union. This is a dynamic story that i am a descendant. My grandfather, Daniel Franklin Knight, was the son of Newt’s youngest brother, Andrew Zachery Taylor Knight. Will be so interesting to see this movie unfold.

  18. Sandra Welborn says:

    My gr gr grandfather’s story has been told incorrectly so many times. Please, please get it right this time. I hope this movie happens and I do think Matthew is a great actor.

  19. Cindy DeVall says:

    This movie has been long awaited for those of us “southerners” who have ancestors that were right in the middle of what was going on in Jones County and Ellisville, Mississippi during this painful and tragic time in history. There was nothing glamorous about the “War of the Rebellion”. Families split apart, horrific suffering and ufathomable sorrow were the order of the day.

    This movie will be awesome and Matthew McConaughey will be excellent in the character of Newt Knight!

  20. Donna Bass says:

    So excited about this movie. Gary Ross will do a great job with this. Hey look at the first Hunger Games. He has been wanting to do this movie for a long time. Keep a look out for it!

  21. Steve Williams says:

    Not sure how this film will potray the South. Since Matthew is from Texas I
    Hope he knows TRUE southern history & what the war between the states was really fought over.

  22. Good choice ………..here is a chance to find a truth in our history during the civil war, when in Jones County Ms. men were hung at dawn, or shot down in the front yard. It was a lonesome and very hard time for women trying to stay alive and feed their families. Yeah, Matthew is fine for the part. He will portray it well.

  23. Miranda says:

    Can’t wait to see how badly Hollywood screws up my family’s history.

  24. Sandy says:

    McConaughey sounds perfect!

  25. John T. says:

    Sounds horrible. Don’t do it Matthew

    • Beverly Ezell Dye says:

      I’m excited about the movie. My great grandmother Zoraid Knight was Newt Knight’s sister. My Dad and Mom told us stories about them.

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