Hollywood vs. History: Waterloo
You want big-screen shock and awe? Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk and producer Dino De Laurentiis delivered it in Waterloo. The 1970 film, starring Rod Steiger as mercurial French leader Napoleon Bonaparte and Christopher Plummer as Britain’s Duke of Wellington, was shot in Ukraine and used some 16,000 Russian Red Army soldiers as extras, lending it a vast scale affordable only with CGI today.
But did they get it right historically? Using clips from the film, military historian Mark Gerges of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College looks closely at the portrayals of the two military rivals and the filmmakers’ depiction of the most famous battle of the Napoleonic era.
The presentation is part of the Library’s Hollywood vs. History series in partnership with the Command and General Staff College.
Gerges is an ideal guide. Now deputy director of the Department of Military History at the Army Command and General Staff College, he served 20 years in armor units in Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East, and the U.S. and retired from active duty in the Army as a lieutenant colonel. En route to a doctorate in history from Florida State University, he attended the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution, the only graduate program in the U.S. devoted solely to the historical study of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic era.
The Hollywood vs. History series is made possible by a generous gift from the Jerry Rosenblum Trust.