CIVIL WAR FILM A 'HUCK FINN' ADVENTURE
By Paul Bremmer
He called Hoover a “grounded, levelheaded, sober character” for
having the strength to escape from a notorious Confederate prison camp
and “venture off into this sort of Huckleberry Finn type of
“That mentality, that mindset, the amount of calm that it took for him
to actually embark on this journey, I just felt he was such a heroic
figure,” Sean Stone told WND in an interview.
“Union Bound,” set to hit theaters nationwide on April 22, tells the
true story of Union soldier Joseph Hoover. The former New York farmer
was captured by Confederate forces and taken to Andersonville, a
notorious Southern prison camp. However, Hoover escaped and found his
way back to Union-held territory with the help of slaves.
Stone noted the plot is similar to a famous Mark Twain novel, but in
“I tell you, it was a bit like a Huck Finn adventure, where you’re
on this journey to freedom, and it was just the opposite – Huck was
saving Jim, and here Jim basically is saving Huck,” Stone explained.
“I would say it’s the Huck Finn allegory on its head.”
We know about Hoover’s story today because he left behind a diary from
1864 chronicling his adventures.
WND Books will be releasing the companion book to the movie, “Union
Bound: He Went to War to Free the Slaves But Was Freed by Them,”
on May 2, 2016.
Stone, the son of noted filmmaker Oliver Stone, said he can relate to
the real Hoover because he, too, is a writer. In addition to occasional
screenwriting, he said he is always jotting down notes and thoughts,
although not in the form of a diary.
In addition, Stone claimed he shares Hoover’s outlook on the human
race – an outlook that judges men based not on the color of their
skin, but on the content of their character.
“It felt like he was – even though, yes, there was still some level
of racism just in the sense of looking at blacks as separate and a
little bit different than whites – he seemed to be looking at men and
judging them based on their characteristics and as individuals, as
opposed to the blind racism of many people,” Stone explained.
Of course, Stone and Hoover have their differences as well.
“Frankly, he’s more heroic than I am,” Stone confessed. “I mean,
he not only fought in the Civil War and was captured and survived
Andersonville, but after this episode, upon reaching the North after
this tremendous journey, he ends up reenlisting and going back to fight.
So he was such a heroic, courageous man. I can only say I admire him.”
To prepare for the Hoover role, one of the first things Stone did was
read the Stephen Crane novel “The Red Badge of Courage” to
understand the dialogue of the Civil War era. He also watched Civil War
films such as “Andersonville” and “Gettysburg” to gain a better
feel for the era.
One thing he didn’t do is starve himself to try and look like an
authentic prisoner of war.
“Andersonville really took a toll on the people there,” he said.
“If it didn’t kill them, it left them probably 40 to 50 pounds
lighter. And so I got a little skinny, but I definitely didn’t starve
myself to that point.”
He said of his preparation: “It was more about getting into the feel
of the time and the pace of the time, because remember, it’s a slower
pace of living pre-cell phone and pre-television.”
He said it helped that they filmed the movie on an actual slave
plantation in North Carolina. The environment was so authentic that a
chigger crawled up Stone’s leg during the shoot and bit him, causing a
painful itch. At one point, someone informed him one of the two
port-a-potties on set had a snake in it.
Stone praised his fellow cast members, particularly Randy Wayne and Tank
Jones, for their commitment. He said the camaraderie was great during
“As a crew, I think everyone banded together,” the lead actor said.
“By shooting on this actual slave plantation – we all were housed
together nearby – but it very much felt like you’re pretty much in
Stone said the cast and crew would try to scare each other with ghost
stories some nights about parts of the plantation being haunted. Some
claimed to have heard or felt something.
It was all in good fun, according to Stone.
“We were in this adventure together on this massive property, and I
think aside from the snakes and the ticks and the chiggers, we made it
through,” he said.
In Stone’s view, the Joseph Hoover story still resonates today because
it allows Americans to look into the past and make amends with an era
and a topic that might make many people uncomfortable. He pointed out
when he began work on this project, “12 Years a Slave” had just won
the Oscar for Best Picture, suggesting moviegoers are still very much
interested in films about slavery.
“You could say there’s something about people wanting to sometimes
make amends with the past,” he said. “Part of, I think, our interest
in the past and history is seeing it to better understand it, sometimes
to make amends.”
But “Union Bound” is not a reprimand to white America over the
evils of slavery. In the end, it’s just a really compelling adventure
– like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” according to Stone.
“I keep mentioning Huck Finn, but literally this guy is escaping from
a prison camp, running off into the woods, nearly starving and dying,
finding slaves to help him, then the slave himself becomes a major
character, player in the story, and they go off on this journey to
freedom,” Stone enthused. “Well, that’s just a good story. It
doesn’t matter if it’s the Odyssey and the guy’s trying to get
home 2,000 years ago, or if it’s set right now. It’s an eternal
See the trailer