A few weeks back we told you that Robert Redford, full-time Sundance czar and part-time movie maker, had picked the historical biopic “The Conspirator” as his next directorial effort. Based on the real-life of Mary Surratt, the lone woman accused of treason and murder in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, “The Conspirator” already had the makings of a big, splashy awards movie when Redford came on board – the only thing missing was a cast whose very presence onscreen screamed “Oscar!” I’m not sure if the names James McAvoy or Robin Wright Penn meet that specific requirement, but I am sure that Redford has made two smart and interesting choices for this film. More after the jump.
When Redford first came on board this latest Lincoln-centric period piece it was rumored that “Wanted” star James McAvoy was in negotiations for one of the lead roles. Hooray, said I! I am interested in any film that McAvoy is attached to. But would he play Booth? Surratt’s son? No one knew.
According to Variety, McAvoy will play Frederick Aiken in “The Conspirator”. Aiken was the young solicitor who defended Mary in her trail and who came to believe passionately in her innocence. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you all but let’s just say that his legal powers of persuasion were not all that they could have been in Surratt’s case.
As for Surratt herself, the role goes to Robin Wright Penn – the beautiful actress whose talent has been largely eclipsed by the high-profile and big temper of husband Sean. I’m a little surprised that a bigger name actress wasn’t interested in the role but it may have been that, with so little time before the film’s October start date, all of the Academy hags were already busy. Their loss is our gain, however. Penn is an actress who has been just waiting for the right film to put her over since “The Princess Bride”.
Here’s hoping “The Conspirator” will be that film. And here’s further hoping that Robert Redford has gotten all of the boring out of system after directing “Lions for Lambs”.