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.