I have known actor and filmmaker Ed Mantell for a few years, and he is always good for a story or two. After working on so many Civil War related documentaries and features (and many other genres as well), it is safe to say that his insight has helped me understand the film-making process a lot more clearly than when I started blogging three years ago. Ed was recently involved with Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, as a background talent appearing in numerous scenes (quite prominently in one set in the “war room”, where he noted that he face was actually visible for five seconds), and attended the premiere in Richmond, Virginia this past week. Ed was kind enough to share his review of the film with us:
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.
We all knew this was going to be good, but up until viewing the newly released trailer for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, I was hesitant to label this an epic. Well, after viewing these two minutes, I think that is exactly what we will be dealing with once this film hits theaters on November 16th. In the direction that Hollywood has been heading in recent years, could this be the last great, big-budget historical epic? One would certainly hope not, but this will definitely have to serve as our Civil War fill, at least for a while. This trailer has given us a little bit of everything, not just glimpses of what are sure to be Academy Award-nominated performances from Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones, as Thaddeus Stevens, (I’m also looking forward to Hal Holbrook’s performance and will bet you everything I own that the score from John Williams will win him his sixth Oscar) but of all the other items that are going to shape this film. A pleasant surprise to me here is the inclusion of battle scenes, and what looks like Richmond burning. Though marketed as a biopic, the scope of the storyline may be a lot more vast than we could have ever imagined, hence the usage of the word “epic”.
Unfortunately, due to other projects and events we have been covering on this blog, Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film titled Lincoln has gone largely ignored. This was not by design, of course, and I am looking forward to it immensely, given some of my favorite actors, Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones, are starring in it. I have been in contact with one of the cast-members, who wanted to pass along this little tidbit, after we discussed some of the scenes that will be included, “People have reported we filmed the assassination but we did not. Just the deathbed scene.” This would be very interesting to note, because the one scene that everyone would be geared up for in a film about Abraham Lincoln would be how his assassination is handled. When I pressed him further and asked if he was sure, he responded, “We wrapped on December 20. [There was no assassination filmed] unless they filmed it in California after they left here. The word on set was that Daniel [Day-Lewis] told them he was leaving after December 20 to go home and not coming back for re-shoots.” He promised to stay in touch with other little factoids as we get closer to a release. That’s all for now.
While I have not been following the production of Lincoln as much as I would like to be, I do have a source on the cast that says the production is in need for Civil War reenactors in their twenties, for filming in November. He tells me that he met two during rehearsal yesterday that really wanted to work, but were older than the specific need. For anyone that has studied the Civil War, this is not surprising, as most of the soldiers were young men and boys, which only added to the tragedy as casualty figures came in. If you are interested in taking part, please visit the Virginia Film Office website for more information, and you can apply by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, but please, only apply if you fit the need required.
This could be a great opportunity for young reenactors to work with one of the greatest directors of all-time, Steven Spielberg, as well as an all-star cast that includes Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role, as well as Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, and Hal Holbrook, among others.
That’s all for now, folks. Just wanted to lend a hand!
I had been keeping tabs on this film project for the past few years, a project that has since disappeared from the “announced” and “in pre-production” stages on IMDB, even with director Steven Spielberg’s recent announcement that Daniel Day-Lewis would portray Abraham Lincoln in a biopic about our sixteenth president, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals. At one time it was rumored that Liam Neeson was to play Lincoln, and even though Neeson is one of my favorite actors, Day-Lewis will no doubt play a better role, as very few actors get so into their character as he does.
The next five years have the potential to be very exciting for the film industry as we will most likely see a boost in Civil War and related movies due to the event’s 150th anniversary, which will be commemorated from 2011-2015. There is already rumor of a six-hour director’s cut for Gods and Generals to be released, and that is sure to be the first of many with such a theme.
As a Civil War buff, I do not agree with Lincoln’s politics at all. Personally, I believe some of his decisions were borderline tyrannical, such as suspending Habeas Corpus and sending the army to the houses of certain Maryland delegates to ensure the state would not vote to secede with the Union. He also could have taken different routes to see that a war did not break out, a war costing America over 600,000 lives. Nevertheless, I believe Lincoln and his presidency are fascinating, and I have always admired him as a husband and father; a man who lost two children at such a young age, and someone who had to deal with Mary Todd, who was on the brink of insanity during her stay in the White House.
Knowing Spielberg and his direction, I have no doubt that this film will be an epic, I just hope that it concentrates more on Lincoln’s time during the Civil War, and less on his life prior, as it is not as exciting or important.
Many actors have portrayed Lincoln in the past, including my favorite depiction which was Lance Henriksen in The Day Lincoln was Shot. This film was made for TNT (which has produced a slew of Civil War movies) and starred Rob Morrow as well, who played John Wilkes Booth. The film was fantastic, showing the final 24 hours of Lincoln’s life, leading up to his assassination and the capture of Booth. The movie is worthy of a DVD release, but we have yet to see one, and the VHS copy I had of it when I taped it off of TV in 1998 has long since been lost.
The most famous portrayal of Lincoln may belong to Sam Waterston, who played the titular role in Gore Vidal’s Lincoln. This movie was alright, but I have to agree with my history professor’s summation, when he said that Vidal paints Lincoln out to be Jesus Christ. I also felt the film ended much too abruptly after the assassination, especially after being built up so much throughout. Gregory Peck also played Lincoln in a small appearance in the 1982 miniseries, The Blue and the Gray. Though I have not seen it in years, his character still stands out to me, as Peck was one of the greatest actors in the history of film.
We will now anxiously await more details of this upcoming film, such as the storyline and supporting actors, and I can only hope more films with similar themes will spring up, prompting more awareness of the most important event in our nation’s history.