Totem Pole Playhouse will offer a special benefit screening of the feature film Johnny Got His Gun this Sunday, July 15th at 7PM at the Playhouse in Fayetteville, PA. The film stars actor Ben McKenzie from the current FOX television series Gotham, as well as past TV series Southland and The O.C. Totem Pole’s Producing Artistic Director, Rowan Joseph, directed the movie which was produced through his film production company Greenwood Hill Productions.
The movie is a filmed version of the 1982 Off-Broadway play based on the Award-winning novel, rather than a remake of the 1971 movie which Trumbo wrote and directed himself. Trumbo’s version won the Grand Jury Prize and FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Clips of the film were used by the group Metallica in their 1989 music video for the song “One” which was based on the novel as well.
“What appealed to me about the project was not only its anti-war theme but the fact that the screenplay is very pro-soldier. While it does a great job presenting the book’s most famous anti-war passages, it gets just as much power, if not more, from the main character’s unflinching resolve to overcome his situation,” said McKenzie. “Even though the film takes place in World War I, it is sadly still relevant today. The movie demonstrates so beautifully the fact that you can be both for the soldiers and against the war; that they are not two opposing points of view.”
Joseph noted that the dedication at the end of the movie reads: This film is a testament to the noble sacrifice of those who fight our wars for us and a reminder of the solemn responsibility of those who choose to send them. “Unlike the original film which showed the main character’s world from the outside looking in; this version of the story, like the novel itself, is presented entirely in the first person,” Joseph explained. “From the beginning and throughout the film we see him as he sees himself; in his mind’s eye, healthy, youthful, trapped.”
McKenzie plays Joe Bonham, a young American soldier hit by an artillery shell on the last day of the First World War. As a quadruple amputee who has lost his eyes, ears, nose and mouth, he lies in a hospital bed but remains conscious and able to reason. He struggles to find some way to communicate with the outside world. Tapping his head in Morse code, he breaks through and pleads with his caretakers to be put on display as a living example of the cost of war. The film explores the interplay between science, medicine, religion, and politics.
Marshall Fine, former four-time chairman of the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle wrote in his review of the film, “Joseph’s version, while packing the same emotional power, is a more poetic, more imaginative version.” Dennis Harvey writing for Variety called the movie, “a thrilling accomplishment.”
Bradley Rand Smith adapted the play from Trumbo’s 1939 novel, which has sold over a hundred million copies worldwide and had several major reissues since it was first published just two days after the outbreak of World War II. The stage play was first presented Off-Broadway in 1982 at the Circle Repertory Theatre where it starred Jeff Daniels who won an Obie Award for his performance.
Joseph will conduct a question and answer session with the audience after the screening. McKenzie is currently working on the fifth and final season of Gotham and will not attend.
All general admission seats are $25.00 with the proceeds will go towards Totem Pole’s ongoing Capital Campaign. Tickets are on sale now by calling the Totem Pole Playhouse Box Office Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at (717) 352-2164 or online at www.totempoleplayhouse.org