About The Production
The project began in 1996 from an interest in the American Revolution shared by screenwriter Robert Rodat and producer Mark Gordon. Gordon and Rodat had previously collaborated in the same capacities on the seminal film "Saving Private Ryan," which Gordon produced with his partner, Gary
"Bob (Rodat) and I had finished the development of 'Saving Private Ryan.' We were trying to determine what we were going to do next. I think it was Bob who said, Why don't we do something set in the American Revolution?"' Gordon remembers. "Having grown up in Newport News, Virginia, right outside of Williamsburg and Yorktown, I grew up surrounded by the Revolutionary War. So, for me, the idea of doing a movie set against the American Revolution was a wonderful opportunity."
Gordon adds that the Revolution itself is not the film's story, but rather its backdrop. The war is a catalyst for events that cause the characters, specifically the protagonist Benjamin Martin, to examine and change their lives.
"What we ultimately came to thematically is that you can't save your own family unless you are willing to put yourself on the line to save the families of all men— in this case, to fight in
the American Revolution on the side of the patriots," says Gordon. "I think these issues are important, and I hope they will have resonance for the audience in all aspects of their lives."
Levinsohn agrees, explaining that, "what's great about these types of stories is that they're really everybody's story. 'The Patriot' is for anyone who has been forced to defend their children and their beliefs."
The shooting script evolved through an osmosis-like process based on Rodat's fascination with the Revolutionary War. It wasn't just the baffles that intrigued him— the conflict's underlying issues and the terrible choices it presented ordinary people were also compelling.
"After 'Ryan,' I was trying to decide what to write next. From the time I was a kid, the American Revolution always fascinated me," says
Rodat. "I never understood why there wasn't a movie that had captured that.
"Unlike 'Ryan,' 'The Patriot' deals with a war fought on the home front. It seemed natural to deal with someone like Benjamin Martin, who has to grapple with competing responsibilities— in this case, family and principle. It's a story about how he tries to deal with obligations that are in direct conflict," Rodat explains.
Columbia Pictures agreed with Rodat and purchased the screenplay. Studio Chairman Amy Pascal explains, "we like the story of a man defending his family, because it's powerful and universal." After Rodat and Gordon developed the screenplay, Gordon and Levinsohn searched for a filmmaker to direct the project. Instead, they found a filmmaking team, in the form of director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin.
"We were looking for a great storyteller. Roland was a director that I'd been very interested in, and we had been big fans of his and Dean's from 'Independence Day,"' says Gordon. "I thought, what a different kind of movie this would be for Roland. When you are looking for a director, you have two options: you can turn to someone who has done this kind of genre five times before, or you can opt to work with someone who is extraordinarily talented but hasn't told this particular kind of story. That was why we were so excited about the possibility of Dean and Roland getting involved in the picture. It has been an incredibly happy and fulfilling collaboration."
"On some level, it took the courage that Benjamin Martin had to have for Roland to do this film," says
Levinsohn. "I think it was worthwhile and brave of him to go after this material."
Adds Rodat: "I think Roland and Dean are going to surprise people. They are very thoughtfu
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