Last month we reported on the fact that Lions for Lambs director, Robert Redfrod, is going to be making a movie called The Conspirator about Mary Surratt, the alleged co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth, the man responsible for President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. And today we learn that two of the primary cast members have been found: James McAvoy and Robin Wright Penn.

McAvoy was already said to be at the top of the list of actors for one of the lead roles, and Variety is today confirming his casting. Penn will play (what is presumably) the lead role of Mary Surratt, the woman who in real life was tried and hanged (the first woman ever to be executed by the United States federal government, FYI) for her alleged role in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. McAvoy will play Frederick Aiken, a young war hero who reluctantly defends Surratt at trial and in the process comes to believe she is innocent of the crime(s) she’s been charged with.

Along with Redford’s The Conspirator – which is a connected story to Lincoln as opposed to a biopic about the man – we also have Steven Spielberg attached to a biopic about the former President (appropriately called, simply, Lincoln) and an upcoming HBO project about the search for Booth after he committed the assassination. Out of the three, I’m most looking forward to Spielberg’s biopic (which has Liam Neeson attached to star), but I’m still very much interested in Redford’s movie.

Along with Redford directing, The Conspirator is written by James D. Solomon (The Bronx Is Burning) and will be the first film financed by the American Film Company, which is headed by online brokerage entrepreneur, Joe Ricketts.

I had Kate Winslet in mind for the role of Surratt for some reason, but Penn is a good choice, too. She stars in the upcoming The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (see my review), a fairly enjoyable if uneven “dramedy” in which Penn was quite brilliant in the titular role. McAvoy is pretty much always worth watching IMO, with particularly impressive work in The Last King of Scotland and Atonement. I’m glad to see him take roles like this, not just riding on his success and reputation as a movie star, just taking the “easy” roles that pay the big bucks (though I wonder how much he’ll get for Wanted 2).

What do you think of the two leads cast in Robert Redford’s The Conspirator? Would you have chosen different actors?

The Conspirator is set to start filming this October but doesn’t have a release date yet.

Source: Variety