- Associated Press - Saturday, June 21, 2014

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - Dressed in his Civil War Union Army uniform with a Mountain Howitzer at his side, Jack Whitlock looked the part of a Civil War soldier during a battle reenactment.

He and his son, Mark, were convincing enough to catch the attention of Ray Herbeck, casting director for the movie, “Glory.”

“We had our cannon, and they were interested in having us in the movie,” Whitlock said.

The former SIU Museum director appeared with his son in the movie that won five Academy Awards and then went on to land parts in seven other movies.

“Glory,” filmed in Virginia and Georgia, was both Whitlock’s first and favorite role.

“It was such an absolutely magnificent film - very well written, very well directed,” Whitlock said. “Just a wonderful, real depiction of the Civil War military action - very authentic.”

The movie allowed Whitlock to brush shoulders with some of Hollywood’s brightest stars.

The re-enactor, who described Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington as quiet, was able to spend a lot of time hobnobbing with Morgan Freeman, who played Sergeant Major John Rawlins in the film about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, one of the first African-American units.

“We spent more time with Morgan Freeman because he wanted us to be in a movie that he wanted to make on General Pershing down on the Rio Grande,” Whitlock said. “We never made the film, but he talked to us for a long time. Morgan Freeman is down to earth and wonderful. He is a human being.”

Whitlock was injured while filming a scene in the movie. He was fighting a soldier on an island off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, when he fell and hit his head on a metal first-aid box, cutting himself.

“I thought it was funny because it was so ironic,” he said.

Their performance in “Glory” landed them a second role in the made-for-television movie, North and South Part II.

Whitlock went on to appear in “Alamo: The Price of Freedom,” ”Legacy,” ”Far and Away,” ”Rambo III,” ”Ride with the Devil” and “Son of the Morning Star.” Each film had a historical element to it.

He remembers fondly the conversations he’s had with actors while waiting on the set.

“Working on a film eight hours a day for a couple weeks, you get to know the other actors, you get to know the lead actors, you sit and talk to them,” Whitlock said. “You really get to know these people and with a few exceptions - Tom Cruise - they’re nice people and fun to be around.”

Whitlock said he would normally get paid about $2,000 for two weeks of work. His son, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army, paid for graduate school with his movie appearances.

The former Marine directed the SIU Museum for 22 years and also was director of the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis. He came upon his appreciation for history honestly.

“My great granddad was a volunteer as a federal infantry soldier in the Civil War. That was on my dad’s side,” Jack Whitlock said. “My great granddad on my mother’s side was in the confederate medical corps, so I had those two relatives who were in the war and that interests me.”

He hasn’t appeared in a movie since “Ride with the Devil” in 1999, but the 79-year-old would still welcome another role, particularly one that would cast him as an officer in the federal army.

He continues doing reenactments with the 31st Illinois infantry reenacting group.


Source: The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, bit.ly/1n4CgWG


Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com

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