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film: Double Vision

Local re-enactor hits the big screen — many, many times.

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"They digitized me," Kidd says.

What that means is that Kidd and about 20 other re-enactors were photographed multiple times doing pretty much the same thing — with a few changes of accessories and positions. In the editing room, those multiple copies of a handful of soldiers were digitally montaged so they fill the screen in the movie's sweeping Civil War scenes.

"It's the first time I was ever digitized," Kidd says with a chuckle. He hasn't yet seen any of the film. "I have no idea how much screen time I'll get," he explains, although he spent about 20 minutes in front of rolling cameras during the filming and has spotted himself in TV ads for the movie. Those few minutes, however, represent 16 days on location in the Shenandoah Valley and in Maryland, for which Kidd received what he calls "the standard re-enactor's pay" — hot meals.

Kidd — who also appeared in the TV movies "Gettysburg" (which was later released in theaters), "The Day Lincoln Was Shot" and "The Love Letter" — is a past state commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He believes "Gods and Generals" will be as close to accurate as a film can be when it depicts events of nearly 150 years ago. That's one of the reasons he agreed to participate.

"No film can be 100 percent accurate," he says, but in "Gods and Generals," the battles, the uniforms, the artillery and the timeline appeared to be right on the money.

"I was very pleased with what I saw. It's very important that we remember all of these men accurately for their sacrifices. It was a matter of honor for them. When the war was over, that's all they had — their honor."

"Gods and Generals" is based on Jeff M. Shaara's book of the same name, which was a prequel to "The Killer Angels," the book by his father that was made into the film "Gettysburg." "Gods and Generals" explores the lives of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet and Joshua L. Chamberlain as the epic Battle of Gettysburg approaches. The movie was written, directed and produced by Ron Maxwell, who also wrote, directed and produced "Gettysburg." It stars Robert Duvall as Lee, Jeff Daniels as Chamberlain, Mira Sorvino as his wife, Stephen Lang as Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner as Longstreet.

Kidd, 52, says he's been a re-enactor — "a first sergeant in the Fifth Virginia Infantry, Morgan's Guard" — for 15 years. "I'm not hard-core. But I like to do it seriously, accurately, to give people, especially youngsters, a feel for how those men sacrificed. It was a real honor to be a part of the filming. A lot of people get their history from films, and if they see this, their perceptions will probably be correct."

When he participates in a re-enaction, Kidd, who lives in Colonial Heights, says he's honoring his great-grandfather. Thomas Fitzgerald of Caswell County, N.C., was 15 when he joined the 13th North Carolina Company A as a private. He fought all the way to the surrender at Appomattox, where he mustered out as a corporal at age 19. He had two brothers who fought in the Civil War. Thomas was the only one to return home alive.

"I suppose that's why I've always had an interest, the family connection," says Kidd, who has a 19-year-old son who is also a re-enactor when he can spare time from school. He and his son participated in the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. They were two among some 26,000 re-enactors in Confederate and Union uniform.

Participating in the filming was a lot like being a real soldier, he says: hurry up and wait. "There's so much downtime." But he maintains the camaraderie on the set kept boredom at bay.

The special showing of "Gods and Generals" is the centerpiece of a fund-raising effort. The premiere will be at the Carpenter Center, to be preceded by a dinner at Tredegar Iron Works Gun Foundry for major donors. Proceeds will benefit the Tredegar National Civil War Center Foundation, the Museum of the Confederacy, the Richmond Civil War Roundtable, the Center for Civil War Living History and the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. S



Tickets to the Richmond premiere of "Gods and Generals" start at $100 and are available by calling 344-8081. The movie will be released nationwide Feb. 21.

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