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The Story Behind "Free State of Jones", starring Matthew McConaughey

In the new film "Free State of Jones," Matthew McConaughey plays Confederate soldier Newton Knight, and depending on whom you ask, Knight was either a hero or a traitor.

Source: CBS News

Actor Matthew McConaughey won an Oscar for his performance in the 2013 movie "Dallas Buyers Club." An upcoming feature on the summer screen stars McConaughey in another role based on a real-life historical figure ... one, Michelle Miller tells us, who is still controversial a century-and-a-half later:

Mississippi writer William Faulkner once wrote, "The past is never dead, it isn't even the past." And when it comes to the American Civil War -- 151 years after the South's defeat -- the past remains both a painful memory, and an ongoing cause for debate.

In the new film "Free State of Jones," Matthew McConaughey plays Confederate soldier Newton Knight, and depending on whom you ask, Knight was either a hero or a traitor.

"The deeds of the story, the context of that time, will be very relevant to today," he said.

Newton Knight (1837-1922).

Knight was a poor white farmer from Mississippi who in 1863 abandoned the Southern cause, and spent the rest of his life fighting against oppression.

"I think his DNA was sort of written in the Bible and the Declaration of Independence," McConaughey said. "I mean, here's a guy who believed there were no kings on Earth above him. There is one king, and that's God. And so his faith trumped the dominant values of society at that time."

The film has been a near-decade-long passion project for director Gary Ross, who has made such blockbusters as "Big," "Seabiscuit," and "The Hunger Games."

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