by director Robert Redford
I was taught John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. End of story. When I read the screenplay for The Conspirator I was shocked by what I didn’t know about the larger conspiracy and the aftermath. I had no idea the same night Lincoln was shot concurrent attempts were made to assassinate the Vice-President and the Secretary of State. And this all took place just five days after the Civil War ended when armies were still on the battlefields and the peace was very fragile. This fascinating piece of our past seems to have slipped through the cracks in our history lessons but, ultimately, what drew me to this project was the deeply personal story that takes place inside this infamous event.
I like to get inside a piece of history and tell a part of the story that remains relatively unknown but do so in an intimate way. I think it’s important to be true to your artistic soul and I find these types of stories personally very interesting. They are filled with great character drama but also speak to something larger. I’m drawn to stories about America, not just as a country but as a “concept” of who we are or aspire to be. Those aspirations and ideals are the basis from which our country was founded. They have the ability to inspire greatness and at times they have the ability to corrupt our judgment. It’s human nature and I find stories that expose the humanity of our ideals fascinating. With films like The Candidate or All the President’s Men or Three Days of the Condor, those all had political foundations, but they ask the same types of questions in a very personal way. It’s these intimate human stories that become so revealing about America, and to me this is one of those stories. I believe in the power and poignancy of this story and look forward to sharing it with you and hope you find it as compelling and thought provoking as I do.