Within the first five minutes of the History Channel documentary "Gettysburg," a Union soldier splits open the skull of a Confederate with his rifle stock. Blood erupts from the battle wounds, splattering the camera's lens.
Would you expect anything less from Ridley and Tony Scott, whose resumes include "Top Gun," "Black Hawk Down" and "Gladiator"? The brothers behind some of the biggest blockbusters don't skimp on the horrors of war for the small screen in this docudrama.
"You know, when you're watching a documentary, the danger is to romanticize," Ridley Scott said. "There was absolutely nothing romantic about this war whatsoever, no more than any other war."
"Gettysburg," which the Scotts executive produced, premieres at 8 p.m. today as the History Channel launches a four-year initiative to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Actor Sam Rockwell narrates the film, which is directed by Adrian Moat.
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Scott, who was interviewed while working on his highly anticipated "Prometheus" in London, credits Moat, but the Scotts' influence is apparent in the cutaways that explain the lethal qualities of new weaponry and, of course, the unflinching lens when metal meets flesh and bone.
"I think what Adrian went for was the hard facts, if you like, what it was like to be in the face of a hail of bullets, and also what it was like to face what essentially was new weapons," Scott said. "There was suddenly a leap forward in terms of weapons capability and exploding shells and things like that."
Words and music
Horror writer Stephen King's first play, "The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," featuring haunting melodies by rocker John Mellencamp, is finally ready for the stage.
The musical was originally scheduled for its debut at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in 2009, but was postponed. It's now set to open next April at the Alliance.
Mellencamp and the play's director weren't getting along, King said at the Alliance's season preview presentation. The new director is Susan Booth, the company's artistic director.
The project originated about 11 years ago, King said.
"John had an idea that he wanted to do a play about ghosts in a cabin and how sibling rivalries and resentments are carried down from generation to generation," King said.
He said Mellencamp told his agent he wanted a writer like King and discovered that the two had the same agent.
They got together and agreed to try to write the play, King said. "One of the reasons to do it was because I never had, and John felt the same way."
Another year older
Today's birthdays: Actor Clint Walker, 84... actor Keir Dullea, 75... actress Ruta Lee, 75... actor Michael J. Pollard, 72... country singer Wynonna Judd, 47... actor Trey Parker, 39... singer Cee Lo Green, 37