August 18, 2009 / 9:09 AM / 10 years ago

Redford to direct film on Lincoln assassination

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Robert Redford is visiting the land of Lincoln. The actor/filmmaker, who has an acute interest in political topics, will direct the historical drama “The Conspirator,” the story of Mary Surratt, who was convicted and executed as a conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.

Festival founder Robert Redford speaks to the media on stage at the Egyptian Theatre prior to the opening night of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 15, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

James Solomon, the writer and executive producer of New York Yankees tale “The Bronx Is Burning,” wrote the screenplay. Like “Conspirator,” that ESPN original series is also a story set in a politically turbulent time, the volatile summer of 1977 in New York City.

James McAvoy is said to be at the top of producers’ list for one of the lead roles in the independent project “Conspirator.”

Surratt was a Washington, D.C., boardinghouse owner who sympathized with the Confederates. She was tried for supplying weapons to Booth and his accomplice David Herold. Surratt’s son John, also alleged to be part of the conspiracy, went on the lam. He eventually was put on trial but was not convicted, living until 1916.

The period immediately after the Lincoln assassination, which will provide a backdrop to the movie, was considered extremely volatile, with the country on the verge of renewed civil war.

Redford’s most recent directorial effort was 2007’s “Lions for Lambs,” which centered on a series of interlocking tales in and around the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That film, starring Redford, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, was a box-office disappointment, but Redford has not shied away from politics before or since.

The founder of the Sundance Film Festival is supposed to direct “Against All Enemies,” the adaptation of Richard Clarke’s expose about the Bush administration’s intelligence failures, though that project has become uncertain in the wake of the unraveling of producer Capitol Films.

Lincoln has been the focus of attention for many in Hollywood, but lately projects have faced more obstacles than the president’s legendary trek through the snow.

Steven Spielberg has been attached to direct “Lincoln,” a biopic of the 16th president, but the project has been gestating for a long time at DreamWorks.

HBO and Walden have been in development on a story about the search for Booth after he pulled the trigger, based on James Swanson’s “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.” The project at an earlier stage had Harrison Ford attached to star, but its status is also uncertain.

Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters

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