New Civil War film by Flint Hill director

Director Ron Maxwell (center) with actors Peter Fonda (left) and Billy Campbell on a “Copperhead” location shoot. Photo by Christopher Cooper (© Copperhead The Movie Ltd.).
Director Ron Maxwell (center) with actors Peter Fonda (left) and Billy Campbell on a “Copperhead” location shoot. Photo by Christopher Cooper (© Copperhead The Movie Ltd.).

Ron Maxwell, Flint Hill resident and director perhaps best known for his acclaimed film “Gettysburg,” has a new movie in the works. Again, it’s about the Civil War – but from a far different angle.

“Copperhead” is unlike any Civil War movie to date, according to Maxwell. It is a film of the conflict at home – of a family ripped apart by war, of fathers set against sons and daughters, of a community driven to an appalling act of vengeance against a man who insists on exercising his right to free speech during wartime.

A story of the violent passions and burning feuds that set ablaze the homefront during the Civil War, “Copperhead” is also 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.

The movie is based on the novel by Harold Frederic, which the great American critic Edmund Wilson praised as a brave and singular book that “differs fundamentally from any other Civil War fiction.” It 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.

Far from the Virginia battlefields whose names etch our history, the war of “Copperhead” visits the devastation and unimaginable loss of a civil war upon a family and a community whose strength and very existence are tested by fire, rope, knife and betrayal. This is the Civil War come home.

Maxwell finished filming this summer at locations in New Brunswick, Canada. The feature is scheduled to be in theaters in December.

The name “copperhead” refers to vocal Democrats located in the North who opposed the Civil War and wanted an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. Republicans started calling antiwar Democrats “Copperhead,” likening them to the venomous snake. The Peace Democrats accepted the label, but for them the copper “head” was the likeness of Liberty, which they cut from copper pennies and proudly wore as badges.

The new film’s stars include Billy Campbell (of The Killing), Angus Macfadyen (of Braveheart), Lucy Boynton, Augustus Prew and Francois Arnaud.

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