What really went on during the final days before Lincoln’s assassination for President Lincoln and his assassin John Wilkes Booth? What happened after the assassination? If you want to know, read the fascinating book Killing Lincoln by FOX News host Bill O’Reilly and see the movie of the same name.
Monday night, I attended the premiere of Killing Lincoln with many of the stars of the show at National Geographic. Actor Billy Campbell of Rockeeteer fame, who plays Lincoln, was at at the premiere. Campbell plays Lincoln convincingly, as a handsome man at 6’4″ with a soft spoken voice. Also in attendance were the director Adrian Moat, and Northern Virginia native actor Josh Murray, who plays the assassin Lewis Powell. Powell attempted to assassinate United States Secretary of State William H. Seward and was one of four people hanged for the Lincoln assassination conspiracy. Jesse Johnson, who plays John Wilkes Booth, was sadly not in attendance. Johnson steals the show with his enthusiastic and passionate portrayal of Booth.
On the red carpet, I interviewed Billy Campbell, the director Adrian Moat, actor Josh Murray, and the Republican Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Billy Campbell said the main thing he took away from making the movie was how kind Lincoln was. The director, Adrian Moat, is originally from the UK and he worked on the film Gettysburg before tackling this project. His directing Gettysburg naturally led to a fascination with American Civil War history, which he was not exposed to as a child. Adrian wanted his movie to be factual and truthful and to give a human side to the assassins. Josh Murray shared that he got the job because he picked up the director and spun him around to show he could play the assassin. His favorite president is Washington, with Lincoln a close second. Secretary LaHood said that Lincoln was his favorite president. He shared that elections still change the dynamics in Washington, much like they did after Lincoln’s reelection.
After the red carpet, there was delicious food like the mashed potato or sweet potato bar, pies, open bar, Maryland crab, prime rib and a fiddling band.
The movie was shown to a packed house including wounded warriors from Walter Reed. They received special applause from the audience. A wounded warrior in real life, Shawn Pyfrom has a key role in the movie as Private John W. Nichols, the short hand note taker during Lincoln’s final hours. Apparently 1,200 people saw the assassination, but no two stories were the same.
The movie is stunning and vivid. Viewers are taken from DC to the ashes of Richmond and Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ mansion. They also see battlefields, theaters, and the backwoods of Maryland. Tom Hanks is the narrator and the movie is produced by power producers Ridley and Tony Scott. It’s fascinating to watch as Lincoln and Booth lives intertwine. Eerily enough, Booth was close to Lincoln during his second inauguration speech (he got tickets from his fiancee, whose father was a senator) and for another speech. It was also interesting to see how Booth escaped and what his final days were like. I also didn’t realize the full extent of the conspiracy to kill Lincoln, whose goal was to bring down the entire US government. Instead, Booth’s killing of Lincoln was called one of the saddest tragedies by the Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
The movie will show on National Geographic on Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 8 p.m. and again at 10 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). Do not miss it!