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Glory director Edward Zwick discusses motivations behind the film



Director of the film Glory.


GLORY IS THE STORY of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first black fighting unit raised in the Civil War. Its director, Edward Zwick, is previously known for his work as co-creator of the television series thirtysomething and as director of the film About Last Night. . . .

How did did a man famous for yuppie drama thirtysomething get involved with a film about the Civil War, and what does he think potential audience members will expect of him? Zwick responds: "I am proud of my work. I am proud of both thirtysomething and Glory. I don't think people will walk in (to Glory) expecting 1860something." Zwick was brought into the project by producer Freddie Fields, who knew that Zwick would not be able to pass up the powerful script.

For Zwick, Glory is not an attempt to out-do Gone with the Wind; rather, it is a chance to re-examine history. "There is a segment of the American population that has been excluded from the national myth, and that should be redressed."

Zwick cites two non-fictional novels on which the screenplay is based. However, he has been criticized because the only non-fictional character is Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, played by Matthew Broderick. Zwick acknowledges that the black characters are composites of actual soldiers, but the general framework of the plot is based on fact.

The facts about the 54th Regiment are startling. Its commander, Colonel Shaw, was a 25-year-old veteran of the Battle of Antietam. The regiment was assembled in 1862 despite a proclamation by Confederate President Jefferson Davis that any Negro taken in arms against the Confederacy would immediately be returned to a state of slavery and any Negro taken in federal uniform would be summarily put to death. The Confederate Congress later declared that any white officers taken in command of Negro troops would likewise be put to death. On July 18, 1863, Shaw volunteered the 54th for the honor of leading the charge against Fort Wagner, a key fortification guarding the entrance to Charleston Harbor. At the end of the battle, one half of the 1000-man regiment was taken prisoner, wounded, missing in action, dead, or dying.

Zwick defended his choice to tell much of the story of the first black Civil War regiment from the white officers' point of view. "I think the choice was to try to focus on neither blacks nor whites, but on the regiment. One of the points of the story was to explore a time in which both blacks and whites found some commonality of purpose." The fundamental focus of the film is not Shaw and the rest of the officers but "the coming together of the regiment, in all its aspects."

Zwick also suggested that Boston moviegoers visit the monument to the 54th Regiment sculpted by Augustus Saint-Goudens. It is located on the Boston Commons.