Robert Redford will take on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln when he directs The Conspirator. The film will explore the role of Mary Surratt in the assassination plot. Surratt ran the Washington D.C. boarding house where the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln was hatched. She was a sympathizer with the Confederate cause who would be tried, convicted and hanged for her role in the murder of Lincoln.

Surratt had the distinction of being the first woman executed by the federal government. She always claimed to be an innocent bystander who simply let the group of conspirators rent a room. The conspirators were of course led by actor turned assassin John Wilkes Booth.

The film hasn’t cast the role of Mary Surratt. Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Signorney Weaver, and just about any actress over forty is going to be vying for the role.  James McAvoy’s name is coming up for a lead but no indication what role. Would he be Booth? I don’t think he’s a good fit for the dark brooding madman. Redford might want him for the role of Surratt’s Union defense attorney Frederick Aiken.

Aiken is described as believing in the innocence of his client. Does this mean a dramatic scene of Mary Surratt thanking her faithful attorney as she’s led sobbing after the verdict is read by the military tribunal that tried the alleged conspirators?

Greg Shapiro, Rob and Web Stone and Brian Peter Falk are producing the film which is supposed to shoot this fall. Bill Holderman is co-producing. CAA has packaged and is selling North American rights. James Solomon, (The Bronx is Burning) penned the screenplay.

This could be the year of Lincoln if the two other Lincoln related projects get off the ground. There’s another film about the assassination based on James Swanson’s “Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer”  in development at HBO. Spielberg’s Lincoln starring Liam Neeson is still on the sidelines. It looks like Redford will get a jump on both these projects.

There’s a great deal of potential in this film. A dramatic moment in history, add in a great cast, script, direction and this could be an intense film about a moment in U.S. history no one should forget.

Do you want to see this film? Who would you cast as Mary Surratt and John Wilkes Booth?

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