Harvey Lowry was in California directing a film when a friend called and told him about an idea for a new Civil War drama that had been hatched by Michael Davis, founder and CEO of Uptone Pictures. Lowry agreed to read the script, and he was amazed by what he read.
It was a story about a Union soldier named Joseph Hoover who was captured by Confederate forces and taken to the notorious Andersonville prison camp. He was later transferred to a new camp in South Carolina, from whence he and a friend escaped.
The two men avoided recapture with the help of slaves and the Underground Railroad. Eventually they made it back to Union-held territory in the North.
And this was a true story.
“It was really an intense read,” Lowry told WND in an interview. “It was hard to imagine that all of these things actually happened to these people, and that’s what compelled me to take on the project.”
So it was that Harvey Lowry agreed to direct “Union Bound,” which debuts April 22 in theaters across the country.
“It was really an amazing story that needed to be told,” he declared.
He explained that not only did a number of black slaves willingly help two white men escape to freedom, but once the soldiers reached the North, they rejoined their platoons and continued to fight in the war.
And Hoover made it easy for future generations to retell his story because he left behind two diaries chronicling his experiences in the war.
“To have that first-person version of the war and of the escape and of that journey north to get back to his platoon made it a real standout amongst all of the other Civil War movies,” Lowry said. “I think that’s why I was so compelled to do this one, because it wasn’t the Hollywood version based on a true story; this really is a true story.”
It took about six weeks to film the movie, according to Lowry. With the exception of one day, it was filmed entirely on location in North Carolina. The cast and crew were exposed to rain, lightning, extreme heat, bugs and animals. Lowry explained he and the other filmmakers wanted the actors to experience the elements to feel what their characters must have gone through.
Lowry commended the actors and crew members for their dedication and positive attitudes throughout the whole process.
“We were out there 14 hours a day in the hot sun sweating and getting rained on, getting bitten by bugs and everything else, and I don’t remember even one person complaining about it, because we knew we were all making something important,” he said. “We were all making something people were going to enjoy and that we were going to be really, really proud of.”
Lowry said he sought to use as little computer-generated imagery as possible. All filming locations were chosen because they would not require any visual effects. So, for example, Lowry and the crew avoided any shots with power lines in the background. They strove to make sure everything in every shot could have been there during the 1860s.
The people in charge of props and wardrobe also endeavored to make the movie look as authentic as possible.
“The production designer and the wardrobe and the props person all worked extensively to find and utilize everything we could from the era, from the buttons on the wardrobe all the way down to the rucksacks that the actors carried with their private possessions,” Lowry recounted. “Everything was of that era.”
Lowry also praised his actors for bringing realism to their roles. For example, he said none of his leading actors wore wigs or fake beards; they grew their hair to the necessary length and grew beards if the role required it. They lived and breathed their roles, and Lowry believes it translated to the screen.
“When you see the movie on the screen, you’ll very quickly forget that these are actors,” Lowry promised. “You’ll believe that they are Joseph Hoover, Thomas Ryan and Jim Young.”
Sean Stone, the son of director Oliver Stone, plays Hoover in the film. Lowry said it was producer Michael Davis who recommended Stone for the Hoover role, and Lowry agreed after researching Stone’s body of work. It was Lowry who recommended Randy Wayne, whom he had worked with previously, for the role of Thomas Ryan, Hoover’s friend and fellow escapee.
Lowry and Davis both knew the role of Jim Young, the slave who was instrumental in helping Hoover and Ryan to freedom, was critical. Lowry recommended his friend Tank Jones for the part. He sent Jones a copy of the script, asking him to consider Jim’s role, and Jones enthusiastically accepted the role.
Lowry said he was fascinated to learn during the course of the shoot that many slaves in Southern towns were given guns and entrusted to take care of white women while their men were off fighting the war. Jim Young was such a slave.
Lowry hopes moviegoers will note the racial element in “Union Bound.” The Civil War was obviously a tumultuous time for race relations, particularly in the South, but the movie is about black slaves helping white men escape to freedom. And once Hoover and Ryan got back to the North, they rejoined their platoons and fought for the freedom of the slaves who had just helped them.
It all makes for a very uplifting message, according to the director.
“There’s a lot of good in this world,” Lowry said. “There’s a lot of bad, but there’s even more good in this world. And if we all work together, we can all accomplish what we need to make this a better society.”