It's no secret that filmmaking legends like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg never struggle to recruit top-notch actors and actresses to appear in their films - as evidenced by the collective casts for each of their respective new projects, the freshly-released Hugo and the upcoming dual Spielberg flicks (The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse). Hence why the cast for Spielberg's next movie, Lincoln, also reads as a who's who list of stellar thespian talent.
Two-time (British) Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis is portraying Honest Abe in the Spielberg-directed biopic, which commenced with principal photography on location in Virginia over a month ago. Lewis however, isn't the only well-regarded London-born star playing an important (American) historical figure in the film.
Variety confirms that Brit actor Jared Harris will play a "key" supporting role in Lincoln: that of Ulysses S. Grant, the accomplished Civil War general who would eventually go on to become the 18th U.S. President. While his image as a war hero was eventually tarnished due to his scandal-ridden eight years in office, Grant will be very much a popular public figure in Spielberg's film (given the time setting).
Harris (son of the famous Irish actor, Richard Harris) has long been successful as a chameleon-like character actor, having portrayed a diverse collection of characters in indie and mainstream films, including Natural Born Killers, Happiness, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He's better known nowadays for his recurring role as Lane Pryce on Mad Men and appearances as David Robert Jones on Fringe. Harris will most notably be more front and center in next month's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, where he stars as the sinister Professor Moriarty.
That's all to say: having Harris in your movie is never a bad thing. There is also a joke to be made about British actors being recruited to portray Americans of historical significance, but chances are good, you've already made one in your head...
Lincoln is based on the non-fiction book "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by Pulitzer Prize-winner Doris Kearns Goodwin. If it wasn't already glaringly obvious how high-pedigree a project this is, the film's cast also includes Oscar-winners like Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones, Oscar-nominees like John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and David Strathairn, fan-favorites such as Jackie Earle Haley and Walter Goggins (Justified) - among a whole slew of additional well-liked names.
However, unlike another currently-playing star-studded biographical piece about a famous historical figure (a.k.a. Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar), Spielberg's Lincoln will not attempt to encompass the vast majority of its subject's existence. Instead, the film will focus exclusively on the last four months in Lincoln's life and aim to be more of a procedural drama that centers around the struggle to ensure that the 13th Constitutional Amendment (ie. that which abolished slavery) was actually passed.
Considering that many cinematic biographies often falter by striving to cover too much history (like J. Edgar - see our J. Edgar review for additional details) it sounds all the wiser a move on Spielberg's part to narrow his gaze to one particular portion of Lincoln's highly-eventful life.
Lincoln does not have an official theatrical release date set just yet but we know it will not hit theaters before the 2012 U.S. presidential election (per Spielberg's request). It is expected to arrive no later than next December.