Monday night’s world premiere of “Gods and Generals” at the National Theatre was a gaffe-free event. There were no Trent Lott-like musings about how things would have been better if the South had won the Civil War.
Not even Ted Turner, the loose-lipped media tycoon who bankrolled the movie, could manage to furnish an offensive remark.
After guests had watched three-plus hours of the carnage of early Civil War battles at Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, moods were somber and contemplative, especially given a potential war with Iraq inching ever closer toward reality.
“It really shows how tough war is on people,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, the state whose secession from the Union sparked the bloody conflict.
Sen. John Warner, who attended Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., said he felt a “twinge on my heartstrings” during a scene in which “Stonewall” Jackson is buried at the Virginia Military Institute, also in Lexington. “That small town,” he noted “is where I spent many happy years of my life.”
Sens. George Allen and Robert Byrd and former Sen. Phil Gramm have bit roles in “Gods” (all play Confederates), as do two Northerners, Reps. Ed Markey and Dana Rohrabacher.
“This movie is going to make people appreciate the deep principles, the values and courage of Americans as far back as 140 years ago,” Mr. Rohrabacher said.
War talk aside, the California Republican managed to poke fun at himself and his budding acting career.
“I looked fatter on the screen,” said Mr. Rohrabacher, who plays the role of a Union soldier in the Civil War epic, set for a Feb. 21 theatrical release. “I didn’t look as handsome as I think I look.”
Mr. Rohrabacher was waiting in a long security line near 14th Street NW as the VIP audience filed into a gala reception at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. A pre-screening cocktail hour was held at the theater while “Gods” stars Robert Duvall, Stephen Lang, Jeff Daniels, Mira Sorvino and Jeremy London walked the red carpet and posed for photographers, Hollywood style.
Following the screening, the actors trekked across the street for the party, hosted by Mr. Turner and director Ronald Maxwell.
Before the star-gazing could continue, tummies had to be filled.
Having sat through the marathon 3-hour movie, which was introduced with a presentation of colors by VMI cadets, the “Gods” audience was famished, making a beeline for the bivouac-style tents under which the victuals were served.
As Mary Fahl sang “Going Home,” the beautifully haunting theme song to “Gods and Generals,” a row of people sat on the stage, inattentively sipping cocktails and munching from the buffet.
Mr. Maxwell said he didn’t think of premiering “Gods” anywhere else.
“The whole story starts here at Blair House, and it all takes place within driving distance of the capital,” he said. “We didn’t know this when we were planning it, but we are a nation about to go to war all the more reason that we should premiere it in Washington.”