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Chat with Randall Wallace

Author of Love and Honor
By Frank R. Shaw, Atlanta, GA, USA
All color photos are by Stephen Vaughan

Randall Wallace - Photo by Jay Spence Q: The first historical novelist was Sir Walter Scott, another Scotsman. The recently deceased Nigel Tranter, author of approximately 125 novels, was considered to be the heir to Sir Walter in that regard. Do you consider yourself a historical novelist?

A: No, I think of myself as a writer who looks for great stories regardless of the time period. Because I love to look at the full sweep of a life, I’ve been drawn to stories set in the past, but the greatest of novelists like Tolstoy and Mark Twain wrote stories set in the past but did not consider themselves limited to those times, and I try to follow in their examples.

Q: With BRAVEHEART under your belt and now another wonderful Scottish story of intrigue, adventure, patriotism, love and honor, it is evident that your Scottishness plays a big part of who you are. Will you comment on that aspect of your life?

A: The passions and power of the Scottish people have left their mark on America and even more particularly on the American South in ways so pervasive and profound that they have sometimes been almost invisible. As a great tree might be to a man who is standing with his nose up against it, in searching for a better understanding of my Scottish roots, I have come to a greater appreciation of both personal and public freedom.

Randall Wallace in a cowboy hat.

Q: The Scottish community would be interested in knowing if you are kilted. Or, as the question goes, “Do you talk the talk and walk the walk?”

A: I have two kilts, the Royal and the Hunting Wallace tartan. When I wear them, I feel like a braver and a bolder man. I am also more cautious about standing in a stiff breeze.

Q: Where did your ancestors live in Scotland? Do you still have family there and do you go back to the “auld country”?

A: My branch of the Wallaces came to America in the 1660s from Western Scotland, but I also know that being of Scottish descent from the American South, I have many threads of Scottish ancestors, as do so many of us from the American South.

Randall Wallace and Mel Gibson on the set of "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young" in Fort Hunter Liggett, California.  Mel Gibson played the role of Lt. Gen. Hal Moore in the movie which was directed by Randall Wallace. 

Q: Is there a connection in your Wallace family branch to “the” William Wallace?

A: I have traced my genealogy back to within a few generations of William Wallace, but it is my understanding that no one knows the names of his immediate descendents, so direct ancestry might be impossible to prove. But I am absolutely convinced he is an ancestor and no one can prove that he is not.

Q: One last Wallace question. History seems to indicate that William Wallace was a tall man with unusual strength and could use his claymore, a two-handed sword, with one hand. Yet, Mel Gibson, who is physically the opposite of Wallace, was chosen to play his role in BRAVEHEART. Why?

A: The legends of William Wallace are like modern day movies in that they seek to capture the essence of a man. No one knows for sure the physical size of William Wallace, but the force of his character was huge and undeniable. Mel Gibson seemed to me to be the perfect actor to capture the strength of William Wallace’s will and the depths of his heart.

Q: How did you come to choose the name Kieran Selkirk as the name of the main character in LOVE AND HONOR? Both are very Scottish.

A: I found the name in a book that listed options for naming a child, and I loved the strength and music of the name. I chose Selkirk from the names of towns on a map of Scotland.

Q: How did you bring Benjamin Franklin and Kieran Selkirk together? Why not another early American icon?

A: Benjamin Franklin was in fact the head of American intelligence operations in Europe during the fight for American Independence. He was also a man who rose from humble beginnings to a level of greatness that is astonishing. I find Franklin inspiring and believed that Kieran Selkirk would experience him in the same way.

Lt. General Hal Moore, co-author of the book, "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young", along with Randall Wallace, Director, on the set.

Q: Word on the street is that you will make a movie of LOVE AND HONOR. Is it true that Angelina Jolie will play Catherine the Great? Who will play the other major characters in the movie? When will production start and where will the movie be filmed? When is the release date?

A: We are aiming to go into production in March of 2006. Angelina Jolie, for some time now, has been my choice to play Catherine. But I don’t want to announce any cast members until the entire cast has been set.

Q: You dare go where few authors would go regarding one of the most poignant scenes in your book. It is a Christmas Eve gift-buying spree of Col. Selkirk, coupled with the Christmas Day celebration among his friends. You have the good Colonel talking to his dear friend Gorlov about the meaning of Christmas. What part did your major in religion or your own personal faith play in these “family” scenes?

A: I don’t know that anyone could give an objective answer to that question, but I do know a writer’s work is a window to his soul and my soul, like everyone else’s, is formed in the crucible of faith and despair and passion and pain. Writing is to me an act of faith.

Q: The first chapter of LOVE AND HONOR is as “Zhivagoian” as anything I have read about the Russian winters. I read the first chapter and enjoyed it immensely - as the hairs standing on my neck could testify. I’m happy to report the remainder of your book is just as good. How much time did you spend in Russia writing or researching this book?

A: I did not visit Russia until after I had finished the manuscript of the book, but I went to Russia in my imagination as I studied for four years with native Russians who were survivors of the Siege of Leningrad. I’m thrilled you enjoyed Love and Honor and were reminded of Doctor Zhivago in that it is one of my favorite films of all time.

Q: Thank you for your courtesies regarding this wee “chat”. I appreciate the efforts by Jill Rytie on your behalf. She has been a big help to me in securing this interview, and you are most fortunate to have someone with her talents. Now, is there a final word for our readers in the Scottish community?

A: I’m proud to be a part of the Tartan Day parade this year in New York City on April 2nd where Americans of whatever heritage are invited to share in the celebration of courage, honor and liberty. (FRS 3-18-2005)

Return to April/May 2005 Index page  |  Return to Frank's Index Page


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