Robert Redford Takes On Lincoln Assassination Movie

The guys over at Risky Business Blog are reporting that Robert Redford is going to be directing a movie based on Mary Surratt, the alleged conspirator of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. There's reportedly been much interest in Lincoln's life story around Hollywood - even Steven Spielberg is attached to direct a biopic about the 16th U.S. President (but that project has been gestating for quite a while).

Redford, meanwhile, is set to direct the historical drama The Conspirator from a script written by James Solomon, who's most notable work is the TV series The Bronx is Burning, which was set in another politically turbulent time, the summer of 1977. Redford's got a keen interest in politics, and one of the film's producers, Greg Shapiro, produced the recent war film, The Hurt Locker. Redford and Shapiro working with Solomon means that The Conspirator is in the hands of people who at least have experience with this sort of film.

The Conspirator has an interesting story to tell about Surratt, who allegedly helped Booth and his accomplice David Herold with weapons at her cabin after the assassination. She was a boardinghouse owner who sympathized with the Confederates, and who's son, John, was also supposedly a part of the conspiracy against Lincoln. She was later hung for participation in the assassination plot (the first woman ever to be executed by the United States federal government, FYI), with her son being put on trial but never convicted.

There's no word if Redford's film will go so far as to include all of that, or just deal with specifically the assassination and conspiracy. I'd like to think that if he's going to tell the tale properly (which I have no doubt he will), he would include all those aspects.

Along with Spielberg's Lincoln biopic, there's also an HBO project currently in the works about the search for Booth after he committed the assassination, based on the book Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. The project once had Harrison Ford attached to star, but since its status is currently uncertain, The Conspirator will likely be made before it.

The Conspirator is said to also deal with a young Union hero named Frederick Aiken whose appointed to defend Surratt, and who eventually comes to believe she's innocent of the crime(s) she's being charged with. Reports are that James McAvoy is at the top of the list of people who could star as one of the leads, and I wouldn't be surprised it's for the role of Aiken.

I'm not surprised there is so much interest in Hollywood to make a movie about Lincoln (there was an "episodic biography" in 1930 about him). Although I'd much rather see one that's a biopic about the actual life of the former President (such as the one Spielberg is supposedly attached to), Surratt's strongly-connected story is still interesting, indeed. I just wonder who they'll get to play her - for some reason Kate Winslet comes to mind. She's almost always excellent, and even when she's not, she's at least watchable.

What do you think of Redford's latest movie? Do you think this story should be adapted into a narrative feature film or is it more suited to being a documentary?

The Conspirator is aimed to start shooting this fall and doesn't have a release date as of yet.

Source: Risky Business Blog

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