Gods and Moguls

After the events of September 11, even historical fiction takes on new meaning. Just ask Ted Turner

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"We have a lot of scenes of loved ones parting," says actor Bruce Box-leitner (Gen. James Longstreet). "[The Civil War] was an era when America was ripped apart by the most horrendous situation, and yet we put ourselves back together and were stronger. The message is: no matter what we face, we can get through it."

"When I was a kid, patriotism was very out of vogue," says Jeff Shaara, 49, who was 4-F during the Vietnam War. "Now there’s an obvious resurgence, and it’s not mindless. It’s a sense of 'Who are we?' People want to feel good about the country again. For a long time, people of our generation didn’t. My grandfather had an 'America: Love It or Leave It' bumper sticker. I was mortified."

"It’s about partings and farewells, and reunions and the real nitty-gritty elemental stuff of life," says Maxwell, 55, a conscientious objector during Vietnam. "We filmed scenes like that when all this was happening across America. Husbands and wives going off to Afghanistan. It was doubly emotional for us. Doubly poignant. This love of country has always been there. It’s either been latent, repressed or denied. And the proof was September 11. You cannot create something that was not in people’s hearts to begin with."

With the White House and Hollywood joining forces to promote patriotic entertainment, Gods and Generals seems well-positioned to succeed at the box office. Of course, as screenwriter William Goldman famously observed about Hollywood: "Nobody knows anything." That includes Turner. "What am I, a soothsayer? I don’t know what the mood of the country is going to be." Then, for the first time all day his voice quiets. "We’re making a war movie to try and get people not to like war," he says, walking to his trailer.

by Stephanie Mansfield


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