Friday, December 30, 2011

A tale of two Lincolns

... or really, two tales of one Lincoln: the one and only Abraham Lincoln.

As a history major, I have spent a couple of years of my college career studying the Civil War, but I have a lifetime of interest in it. I find Abraham Lincoln to be a fascinating person. Most have heard the basics of his story in school. He was born in near Hodgenville, Kentucky and his family moved to Indiana when he was a young boy. His mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died when he was only nine years old. He went on to practice law, serve as a state representative for Illinois, and led the Union through a Civil War before being assassinated on April 14, 1865. Lincoln has been portrayed many times in cinema history, but in 2012 there will be two very different depictions of him, one having a very supernatural twist Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Lincoln.

This film, directed by Timur Beckmambetov (Apollo 18, The Darkest Hour, Wanted), is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith. Smith is also responsible for the 2009 novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which reached #3 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Labeled as the "untold history of America's sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter plots the history of Lincoln from his boyhood through his presidency. It turns out, that Nancy Lincoln's death, which had been called "milk sickness" was actually the work of creatures of the night.

According to the book's description, Smith found a centuries old Secret Diary of Abraham Lincoln within which the true story of his mother's death and the war which threatened the United States can be found. The description also compares his autobigraphical style to that of Doris Kearns-Goodwin, whose book "Team of Rivals" is being used as the reference for the other 2012 Lincoln film. In the movie adaptation of Vampire Hunter, Abraham Lincoln is being played by Benjamin Walker, who is no stranger to historical fiction, having appeared in Kinsey, Flags of Our Fathers, and the Off and On Broadway musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. The cast is rounded out with Rufus Sewell playing Adam, Lincoln's vampiric adversary, Alan Tudyk as Stephan Douglass, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln, and Dominic Cooper as Henry Sturges, a vampire who aids Lincoln.
There is no official trailer for the film yet, but check out the trailer for the book release. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter stalks its prey into theaters on June 22, 2012.

The second Lincoln-themed movie of 2012 is Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. This film is based on the historian Doris Kearns- Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals" which examines the relationship of Abraham Lincoln to his competitors for the presidency. Ultimately, he would bring them into his cabinet and through their collective political genius, they were able to steer the Union through the Civil War. Playlist is reporting that the movie will not feature the war itself, rather the film will focus on the politics in Washington rather than the battles in the field. In a cinema culture highly focused on scenes of war, this will be an interesting addition. The film will focus on the last months of Lincoln's life, including the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which officially abolished slavery.

Image courtesy of The Playlist
Daniel Day-Lewis is at the film's forefront, playing the sixteenth president. Sally Field has been cast as Lexington native Mary Todd Lincoln, Jared Harris as Ulysses S. Grant, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt portraying the Lincoln's oldest son and namesake of Mary Lincoln's father. Always the methodical actor, Day-Lewis has been seen even out of Lincoln costuming really looking the part. Liam Neeson had originally been cast as the Kentuckian, but left the project in 2010 saying that hew as too old to play Lincoln. The project is still filming in Virginia. Lincoln is slated for a late 2012 release, though little information has been released about the Spielberg film.

Will you see either of these films? What's your favorite movie based on history?

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