An Interview with Ronald F. Maxwell
“Narrating Horses of Gettysburg gave me the chance to be a little bit of an actor,” filmmaker Ronald F. Maxwell admitted in a recent telephone interview. “I had to read quotes from certain Civil War generals and could let the ham in me come out. I enjoyed getting out from behind the camera.”
Maxwell’s experience “behind the camera” is impressive indeed. He’s directed the following films: Sea Marks (TV), Verna: USO Girl (TV), Little Darlings, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, Kidco, Parent Trap II (TV), In the Land of the Poets, Gettysburg, and Gods and Generals. Maxwell earned a Best Director Emmy nomination for Verna: USO Girl, and when his film Gettysburg was shown on TNT, it established the highest rating ever for a dramatic movie on cable TV. After Maxwell's Gods and Generals was released on home video, it became the number one selling video in America.
What drew this acclaimed writer/director/producer to the Horses of Gettysburg project? “I love horses, and I have a fondness for this area,” Maxwell explained. “I’m also impressed by the high quality and great visuals in Mark Bussler’s documentaries. They feature astounding historical images I’ve never seen before. They’re such good-looking films!”
According to Maxwell, working with Bussler has been a very happy experience. “We worked a couple of days together in a sound studio, and Mark also interviewed me at length in my own library,” he said. “I signed on to narrate three projects for Inecom -- Lincoln and Lee at Antietam, Horses of Gettysburg and an upcoming documentary about the great things Civil War veterans accomplished after the war ended.”
In his career as a director, Maxwell has worked with such talented actors as Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, William Hurt and Jeff Daniels. What techniques does he use for getting the best performances from actors in his films? “Give them a good script and a good character to play and you’re half-way there,” he stated. “Give them something that excites them and an environment where they feel safe. But they do it themselves. I just guide them.”
Regarding Horses of Gettysburg, Maxwell wants everyone to know that this is an indispensable film for people who love horses. “And if you love American History, this DVD is a delight,” he added. “I think it’s not just history -- it’s a very poignant and satisfying film.”
I’m betting magnificent horses will also thunder across the screen in Maxwell’s next big project -- a trilogy about Joan of Arc. “It’s called Joan of Arc: The Virgin Warrior, and I like to refer to it as a female Lord of the Rings,” he said. However, we’ll have to wait until Christmas of 2008 to see Maxwell’s take on this fascinating French heroine.
For additional information about Ronald F. Maxwell, go to www.RonMaxwell.com.
(To find out more about Horses of Gettysburg, visit the official site at www.HorsesofGettysburg.com.)