Dissent: often scorned, sometimes praised, always misunderstood. The American Civil War is sometimes called the Second American Revolution or the Second War of Independence, yet the American Revolution is never referred to as our country’s first Civil War. And why not? One could argue that the situations are exactly the same. In both cases, a percentage of the population wanted to remove themselves from a ruler they perceived as tyrannical. Don’t think Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant? Well, there were plenty of people that didn’t think King George III was either.
If there is a film that is going to be new and innovative regarding the Civil War or battle of Gettysburg, chances are its director is going to be Robert Child, the man behind Gettysburg: The Boys in Blue & Gray, Gettysburg: Three Days of Destiny, and the very popular Lincoln and Lee at Antietam: The Cost of Freedom. When I interviewed him two years ago, he hinted at what possibly might be coming for the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg, which he will be tasked with directing and producing the official commemorative film for, titled, Gettysburg: Final Measure of Devotion, which I guess you could say will act as the capstone to his unofficial Gettysburg documentary trilogy. The actual film itself is slated to be released on Remembrance Day in November, on Blu-Ray and DVD. There is also plans of a broadcast on PBS next year, in addition to it hitting local theaters in the fall.
Some people were expecting the worst from National Geographic’s Killing Lincoln, for two reasons: Bill O’Reilly’s book of the same title was littered with inaccuracies, and the production team of Ridley and Tony Scott, along with director Adrian Moat, recently produced one of the most inept and historically insulting documentaries ever made, Gettysburg, back in 2011. Hosted and narrated by Tom Hanks, this is a docudrama which surpasses Gettysburg, distances itself slightly from the book, yet at the same time, does not adequately deliver the entertainment one would expect here, which I will address later. Billy Campbell, whose other Civil War-era film, Copperhead, is slated to be released in June, does a decent job as President Abraham Lincoln. It would be absolutely unfair to compare him to Daniel Day-Lewis, so on his own he is fine. The performance is very calm, quiet, and subdued and I have no problem with the voice he used, which is not accurately high-pitched, but also is not the typical Hollywood deep voice we have heard over the years. The production team used Campbell and his talents as best as they could. However, considering that this film is about killing Lincoln, and Lincoln dies just after the midway point, it did leave a lot to be desired.
Ah, the wonders of Hollywood: Billy Campbell goes from playing a stubborn farmer diametrically opposed to Abraham Lincoln in the soon-to-be-released Copperhead, to portraying the president himself, in the upcoming television film, Killing Lincoln, airing on National Geographic next month, based on a book by Bill O’Reilly. This will serve as the network’s first ever scripted drama, while there will be some narration, provided by Tom Hanks. Though I have only seen the trailer, released yesterday, I must say that my hopes now are a little bit higher than they were when this project was first announced, mainly because the same producer (Ridley Scott) and director (Adrian Moat) gave us that brutally awful Gettysburg documentary for the History Channel last year. I shuddered to think at the same duo handling another portion of American history. However, after reading the script (which was current at the time I read it) several months ago, and because Nat-Geo is still reputable (at least more so than the other network), I will be willing to give this a shot, and them the benefit of the doubt.
Lost in all the hype surrounding Abraham Lincoln is a film scheduled to be released next year, produced by the legendary Terence Malick and to be directed by rookie A.J Edwards, who has worked with Malick in various capacities on some of his most recent films, The Tree of Life and To the Wonder. This film is going to be quite different from what we have seen over the last year or so, in that it will tackle Lincoln’s early years as a lawyer and all the influences in his life that turned him into the man that became president. Wes Bentley will be in the role of Lincoln’s first teacher, while Diane Kruger and Jason Clarke will play his parents. As for the actor who will be playing our 16th president, it is still a mystery. For a film that is in post-production, very few details have been released and we know nothing intricate of the storyline except what I posted above. When I started typing this, I did not realize it would become one of those, “All I have to say is that I have nothing to say” posts, but at least the information is getting out there, as we try to investigate further. Stay tuned for more…I hope.
You can visit their IMDb page here.
Where do I begin? This was a film that I had so many expectations for, and most of them were met. Before I get into this review, I want to say right off the bat that I think this film might be very difficult for anyone other than a history or Civil War buff to truly enjoy. Not to say that this is a dull film, because it is not, and is filled with complexity and enlivening dialogue, but as an actor once told me when it comes to Civil War films, “One bearded guy giving a speech to a bunch of bearded guys in one scene looks exactly the same to the general public as another bearded guy giving a speech to a bunch of bearded guys in the next one.” I feel that it would be unfair to use that quote to classify exactly what Lincoln is, but due to the fact that this film is entirely dialogue-driven, and lasts nearly two hours and a half, it might be a bit tough for some people to get through.
For this next interview, I had the chance to talk to an actor named Michael Kennedy, who appeared in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln as the character of Hiram Price, a Republican congressman who he found out, through research, actually had a personal connection to his great-grandfather. Kennedy has also appeared in films such as Patch Adams, True Colors, and Evan Almighty, and has acted professionally since 1953, while “acting up” since 1943, as he said in his email. I think you will find that this is a very entertaining interview, as he elaborated on a lot of behind-the-scenes information, and what it was like to work with such a famous director. You can read about that, and much more, in our interview below, which was conducted by phone this morning:
As promised, I bring you an interview with a cast-member from Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, a man who I have chatted with once before, when I was in the middle of coverage of the Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut release back in July 2011, as he played Captain James B. Ricketts. The actor’s name is David Foster, who, once he landed a role in the highly anticipated film about Abraham Lincoln, promised he would allow me to interview him when the time was right. With major outlets like the Washington Post and others clamoring to talk to anyone involved with the film, David came to me first, and I thank him immensely for that. Aside from the two films mentioned, he is also going to appear in yet another Civil War related film, Killing Lincoln, a docudrama to appear on National Geographic next year, in the role of James Gifford.
In getting back to Lincoln, David had the opportunity to partake in two roles: one as a Radical Republican congressman, and much more importantly, the stand-in for Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. I have seen pictures of David dressed up as Honest Abe, and although we cannot yet post them, I must say that he looks outstanding in the role. So, without further adieu, I present my interview with David, conducted earlier today by email, shown below:
Upon asking people what their reaction was to the latest Lincoln trailer, called “Unite”, which debuted after the first presidential debate last week, I think everyone’s reaction was the same: “I got goosebumps.” Yep, same here. This may be the best trailer I have ever seen for a movie, and to be honest, it really pumped me up, with a combination of the music and the intensity of the acting. I really felt invigorated after viewing it, like I could go run a marathon or something like that. It’s definitely a different kind of trailer, starting with the opening images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and others, with the basic message saying that if we have a dream or belief, if we can just unite, it can be accomplished, and in the case of this film, which details the waning months of the American Civil War, that dream was the eventual end of slavery. All of these images are being shown while Abraham Lincoln speaks in the background, “Do we choose to be born, or are we fitted to the times we’re born into?”, a very fitting question coming from someone who was such a strong believer in fate.
“Lincoln” Watch is how we are going to keep tabs on anything and everything related to the upcoming film, as we wind down to its November 9 World Premiere, and November 16 wide release. How excited are you?
As expected, the MPAA handed down a PG-13 rating for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. To me, this is a very important part of the film’s potential success, because it would have affected the size of the possible viewing audience, and whether or not that film would be available in schools for use as a teaching tool after it gets released to DVD. The actual description of the rating reads as: “For an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language”. So it appears that people are going to see a bit more war than they originally thought, and a realistic depiction at that. I also want to make mention that people on message boards seem to have been thrown into a tizzy at the fact that part of the rating is due to strong language. While most people are having fun with it (“Hey, maybe Mr. Lincoln drops the F-bomb!”), some are raising some serious points as to what the language could be. PG-13 movies are allowed one usage of the F-word to still retain their rating, but I highly, highly doubt that word will be used here. Someone else brought up the possibility of the N-word being used, which could fit in with the intense scenes of debating about the slavery issue. Still, I do not think I have seen a movie made after the late 1970′s that used that word and was not rated-R. Why are the tiny particulars of this so important? Well, to be honest, they’re really not, but it does give us something to talk about, like maybe whether or not some of Abraham Lincoln’s bawdy jokes will make it into the film.