A major historic trail that winds through Wilkes County might just get a shot in the arm if a major motion picture gets filmed in the area next year as planned.
The movie has a working title of “Revolutionary!” and is, not surprisingly, about the Battle of Kings Mountain near the North Carolina-South Carolina state line, and how that battle changed the course of the Revolutionary War in the South.
The plan right now is to film the movie entirely in North Carolina, centered at Hart Square Village, which has the country’s largest collection of historic log structures. The village is just south of Hickory in Catawba County.
The Charlotte Observer reported last week that the $7 million movie will be produced by John Oliver and Stacy Anderson, both Tar Heel State residents, and written by Patrick A. Davis, a New York Times bestselling author. They’re hoping for a theatrical release in late 2020.
The chosen actor-director is Nick Searcy, who was born in Cullowhee, educated at UNC-Chapel Hill and a longtime resident of Wilmington, where he landed acting roles that made him a familiar face as a character actor. Recently, Searcy was part of the ensemble in “The Shape of Water,” winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2018.
The movie will tell the story of the Overmountain Men, a ragtag group of militia soldiers who surprisingly overwhelmed British-loyalist forces at Kings Mountain on Oct. 7, 1780. That patriot victory sparked a string of conquests that ultimately led to American independence from Britain.
Part of the Overmountain story actually began in Elkin about a month earlier, when Surry County patriots started their march southwest. They joined up with Wilkes militia and made their Tory Oak encampment in Wilkesboro on Sept. 27 and camped the following night near the Wilkes-Caldwell county line along present-day N.C. 268.
The commemorative motor route of Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (OVT) has its easternmost terminus in Elkin, and then goes west on N.C. 268 and N.C. 18 through the Wilkesboros and then on to Fort Defiance in Caldwell County.
The OVT diverts from the motor route along N.C. 268 to take in about 13 miles of certified historic trail around the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir near Wilkesboro. You can walk or bike through this scenic stretch of lakeside single-track, and it intersects other great trails at the lake.
The local person who is synonymous with the OVT is R.G. Absher. R.G. is executive director of the Yadkin River Greenway Council and chair of the Trail Leaders Council of the Partnership for the National Trails System. He’s also served as president of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association (OVTA).
Absher told me the Revolutionary War movie being filmed close to Wilkes was pretty exciting news. He agreed that the movie should create a tourism “trickle-down” (or “trickle-up,” more accurately) effect for Wilkes County.
Some of the OVTA reenactors, including Absher, may have opportunities to be in the film, he added. “Basically, I should know about that a little later in the process.”
Movie producers hired John Slaughter of Spartanburg, S.C., as lead consultant. Absher said he knows the National Parks Service superintendent well and is confident Slaughter will ensure authenticity in the story the filmmakers are telling.
Absher said he also hopes the producers will stress the crucial role Kings Mountain played in the Revolutionary War. “Historians have almost overlooked its importance as the turning point in the southern campaign” of the war, he said.
Regarding the 50-acre Hart Square Village in the hamlet of Vale, Absher said he took part in a recent annual festival there. “The Hart Family is very interested in forming a long-term partnership with the OVTA and is building a large interpretive center to accommodate school groups from Catawba and surrounding counties,” he added.
Oliver told the Observer had been trying for years to talk filmmakers into celebrating the Overmountain Men — who took part in what he calls “the greatest story never told” — on film. He boldly stated, “The movie is going to be made — and made entirely in North Carolina.”
If all goes according to plans, “Revolutionary!” could happen soon—and the impact on Wilkes will surely be felt.