Film Production

Director Ron Maxwell chose to create a movie based on the historical novel, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, whom Maxwell co-authored the script with before the latter’s death in 1988. He then turned to film producer Ted Turner to fund the endeavor.[1] The movie was filmed on and around the Gettysburg battlefield. Top-billed actors, such as Martin Sheen (Robert E. Lee), Tom Berenger (James Longstreet), Samuel Elliott (John Buford), and Jeff Daniels (Joshua L. Chamberlain) were cast in the film to play the major commanders from whose point of view the story is told.

Tom Berenger, who played Longstreet in Gettysburg (1993)

Hundreds of Civil War reenactors gathered at Gettysburg to serve as extras. The movie’s run time is over 4 hours and 20 minutes long, making it the second longest feature film of all time in the US. However, it was a box office flop; the film’s budget exceeded $22 million but it grossed less than $11 million in theaters. When it was later aired on television, it had much more success; forty million viewers tuned in to watch.[2]

Cover art for film

[1] Philip Beidler, “Ted Turner Et Al. at Gettysburg; Or, Re-Enactors in the Attic,” Virginia Quarterly Review: A National Journal of Literature and Discussion 75, no. 3 (1999): 1.

[2] Thomas A. Desjardin and NetLibrary, Inc., These Honored Dead: How the Story of Gettysburg Shaped American Memory (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003), 180.