Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Lincoln Film Announced; Evidently No Progress on Spielberg Project

In the past week, news broke of a new Lincoln-related movie project. The new project, to be directed by Robert Redford, will focus on one of the people convicted of conspiracy after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. You can read the brief AP story here or the best of the blog stories here.

Titled "The Conspirator," the movie will evidently focus on Mary Surratt, who owned the boardinghouse where Booth met with others to plan to kidnap Lincoln (hoping to exchange him for the release of tens of thousands of Confederate POWs) and later to kill him. While Surratt was never tied to those meetings (though her son John was apparently heavily involved), she was accused of housing the conspirators and taking items to the family tavern in Surrattsville, MD for assassin John Wilkes Booth to pick up on his flight from Washington. On the basis of this testimony, she was sentenced to death and became the first woman hung by the US Government.

Even before her execution, there were many who believed that Mary Surratt was innocent, and her involvement in the conspiracy has been debated over the years (a debate that is only slightly less passionate than the one surrounding Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set Booth's leg during his escape). As such, one wonders how Redford and screenwriter James Solomon will approach the touchy subject.

On an aesthetic note, one also wonders which Redford will show up. Will it be the director of the masterful "Quiz Show," the Oscar-nominated film that looked into the game show scandals of the 1950s? Or will it be the director of "The Legend of Bagger Vance," a 1920s period piece about golf, which just may be the worst high-profile film ever made?

This now makes three high-profile Lincoln-related projects in the works. In addition to this one, there is also the long-gestating Steven Spielberg project, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals," and another assassination-related project, based on James Swanson's "Manhunt: The 12-Day Search for Lincoln's Killer," once supposed to be a film starring Harrison Ford, but now in development as a miniseries for HBO.

Of the three, it seems that Redford's will beat the others to the screen, as it is slated to begin filming sometime this fall. There seems to be no movement on Spielberg's project -- certainly no recent news -- which all but ensures that production will not begin before 2010. As for the proposed HBO project, there seems to be no news about it in almost a year.

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