Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Feature film about the Battle of New Orleans back on track
"The Battle of New Orleans," a long-stalled historical epic recounting events leading up to and during the historic 1815 clash, is again moving forward. "Kidnap" producer Joey Tufaro and his locally based Gold Star Films have been bought on board to co-produce the film with project founders Fred and Ken Atchity. Their hope is to bring the film before cameras in 2018 and release it into theaters by the end of 2019.
The Atchity brothers first announced their plans for the film -- which they envisioned in the vein of 2000's "The Patriot" and 1995's "Braveheart" -- in January 2015, the battle's bicentennial year. Their ambitious outlook called for filming to begin in 2015 with a release date as early as 2016. Both dates came and went, however, with little movement on the project.
Now, though, with Tufaro and his Gold Star Films partner Todd Trosclair on board -- both fresh off the success of the release in July of "Kidnap," an action-thriller starring Halle Berry -- the project has been given new life. According to Tufaro, negotiations are underway to attract big-name actors to the project, and possibly a high-profile actor-director, although he said it's too early in the process to reveal the names being sought.
"The Battle of New Orleans" will be filmed in the New Orleans area and will be based on author Ron Drez's nonfiction book "The War of 1812: Conflict and Deception," which recounts the against-all-odds story behind the battle. "What most people don't realize about the Battle of New Orleans is how pivotal it actually was in deciding the fate of our young nation," Tufaro said.
Fought as part of the War of 1812 -- which has been characterized as the American Revolution 2.0 -- the Battle of New Orleans saw Gen. Andrew Jackson commanding a ragtag force cobbled together of several factions, from American Indians and Cajun farmers to free men of color and the pirate Jean Lafitte's band of privateers, in an effort to defend the city against the British. The two sides met just downriver from the French Quarter on Jan. 8, 1815, at Chalmette Battlefield. By the time the dust had settled, the British had suffered an estimated 2,600 casualties, compared to about a dozen for the American side, making for a decisive American victory.
While the battle was famously fought after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed to end the war, word of the treaty hadn't yet gotten to the battlefield. Consequently, generations of schoolchildren were taught the battle was unnecessary. But there are those -- including Drez -- who speculate that, had the British won the war and taken New Orleans, the treaty might have been immediately nullified by the British, who would have then taken control of the city -- and thus the Mississippi River.
"Together, (Jackson's forces) defeated the British armada, which enabled The Treaty of Ghent to be ratified by Congress, thus ensuring the continuing independence of the United States of America," Tufaro said.
The resumption of progress on the Atchity brothers' "Battle of New Orleans" project is particularly timely. First, since taking office in January, President Donald Trump has repeatedly cited Jackson as one of his political idols. A portrait of Jackson hangs in Trump's Oval Office, and the president visited Jackson's tomb in Nashville, Tenn., in March.
It also, however, comes at a time in which Jackson's legacy -- including his championing of the brutal Indian Removal Act as president -- has drawn renewed scrutiny. Amid recent calls for removal of Confederate monuments around the country, some have called for Jackson's iconic statue in New Orleans to be removed and his name scrubbed from the public square dedicated in his honor. (For the record, Jackson was never a part of the Confederacy; he died 15 years before the Civil War began.)
Tafaro, however, shrugged off any potential for controversy, pointing out that -- irrespective of Jackson's legacy in other areas -- the battle marked a pivotal point not just in New Orleans' history but in American history.
"Andrew Jackson, like most well-known historical figures, had a polarizing personality and many of his policies would be controversial given today's political climate," Tufaro said Monday (Aug. 21). "Our film concentrates on the tremendous sacrifices he and his men made to shape our country's landscape for generations of Americans to come."
"The Battle of New Orleans" won't be the first film to focus on Jackson, Lafitte and the Battle of New Orleans. In 1938, Cecil B. DeMille directed "The Buccaneer," starring Fredric March as Lafitte and Hugh Sothern as Jackson. Two decades later, actor Anthony Quinn directed a 1958 remake, with Charlton Heston playing Jackson and Yul Brynner as Lafitte.
The script for a competing "Battle of New Orleans" project, penned by Daniel Kunka, has also been circulating in Hollywood in recent years, even landing in 2015 on the Black List, an annual ranking of the most liked unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.