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Sally Field is First Lady Mary Todd "Lincoln"

Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (2013?) is one of those movies that I always forget about due to its long long gestation period. I swear I've been hearing about it as long as Jodie Foster's Flora Plum or Jodie Foster's Leni Reifenstahl or a few of Terrence Malick's movies before they surfaced. Will it ever get made? Probably. This is Spielberg we're talking about and he's familiar with the green light. The biopic is now one small step closer to filming. Deadline reports that Sally Field is in as our seventeenth* First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.

Spielberg says that Sally Field was always his first choice. I don't believe or disbelieve this exactly but I find it amusing that virtually every casting announcement for any movie (not specifically this one) comes with "they were our first choice all along" which simply can't be true 90% of the time we hear it else there would be very few auditions or screen tests ever held and precious little for casting directors to do other than fill up the bit roles and very little for management and representation to do other than negotiate.

At first the news felt odd and easily snarkable like "Sally Field co-starring with Daniel Day-Lewis? She's moving up in the world!" but then I quickly remembered that people -- apparently even myself. For shame -- are always underestimating her talent, probably because she's a "cute" actress as it were, and has been for her entire career. But I've seen enough of her work to know I shouldn't underestimate her. She's already proven herself on stage (she was a-ma-zing in a difficult role in The Goat or Who is Sylvia?), small screen (Emmys) and big screen (Oscars). She's one of those talents that "transfers" as it were. Plus: Daniel Day-Lewis isn't the only one with two Oscars in this marriage.

If you read up on Mary Todd Lincoln you'll find she was a pretty interesting woman with a very dramatic life: Her own family was torn up by the Civil War as she came from a border state, she outlived nearly all of her children, she was plagued by headaches and erratic behavior which some historians believe indicates that she was a manic depressive or bipolar). You have to wonder why some First Ladies don't get their own biopics.

The most peculiar thing about the casting is probably their age difference. Sally Field is 11 years older than Daniel Day-Lewis and we don't often see casting flip the gender/age disparity equation; Mary was 10 years younger than Abraham.

Here is the trailer to  Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) which netted Raymond Massey and Oscar nomination for Best Actor (Ruth Gordon was not nominated as Mary Todd). John Ford's Young Lincoln (1939) the year before was only Oscar nominated for the screenplay.

No movie about Lincoln has been an Oscar powerhouse but you never know with that cast and director.

But First...
Spielberg's Lincoln is long enough away that perhaps we should be talking about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012) instead. Itopens in 14 months and stars Meryl Streep's future son-in-law Benjamin Walker as Honest Abe. He's apparently cornered the market on blood splattered presidents. His breakthrough role was in the play "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" on Broadway (for which he turned down a role in X-Men: First Class) and all I can say about him is you're in for such a treat when you see him on the big screen. Major charisma he has. Big stardom awaits.

Benjamin Walker heads the cast of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson"

*Abraham Lincoln was the 16th US President but Mary Todd was actually the 17th First Lady since President #10 John Tyler remarried while in office after the death of his first wife.



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Reader Comments (23)

It's true. Film people always say "oh, he/she was my first choice since the beginning" and all, but in this case I think it is true.

Sally Field has been rumored for years, and back in 2007 there were news of her being cast. I even made a post about it on my blog -

News reports are stating that shooting will begin this fall, and release will happen in the fourth quarter of 2012. I guess we already have one of our possible Oscar frontrunners for 2013.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

First Spider Man and now Lincoln, looks like Sally Field is getting some decent film work again. I always felt she was never given enough credit for her brilliance (I guess a handful of Emmys and two Oscars should be enough).

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Good for her, since she was complaining how Meryl Streep gets all the good roles in movies...

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercinephile

Sally Field was announced in the trades as Mary Lincoln years ago when it was going to be Steven Spielberg's next project--before "War Horse" and when Liam Neeson was going to be Lincoln.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Downs

If you're going with marriage as the part of the definition of First lady, then since 15th president James Buchanan was a bachelor, Mary Todd Lincoln would still be the 16th first lady.
But if you're going with duties -- and Buchanan's niece performed those duties during his presidency -- then, yes, Lincoln is the 17th.

Either way, Sally Field -- as well as the Daniel Day-Lewis coup -- have bumped this film up on my must-see list.

Thanks for the great blog and website

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZach

Rami -- i wonder what changed Hollywood's mind? Was it seeing how good she was on the first season of Brothers & Sisters (that show is a mess now but that first season was good)? anyway... i'm glad she's back.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZach

She did not get her 2 oscars by being cute!!!

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermark

maybe a tad too old for the role, still it's good she will work in a such anticipated film and with a such important director. Who knows it this will earn her the third nomination, the first one after her winnings many years ago?

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermirko

Zach, I still love Brothers and Sisters, Season 4 was pretty good! I don't know why it's happening now, maybe she hired Betty White's agent or something?

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Sorry, I do like Sally Field, but I do not think that she has been underestimated at all. I have loved her in a few things, and liked her in many others, but she has relied upon that "cute" thing too often over the years. Would I like her to be great as Mary Todd Lincoln? Sure! But, between her and Spielberg, chances are her Mary Todd Lincoln will turn out closer to Mary Tyler Moore.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercbest

Good to hear about more promising Lincoln projects in the pipe. "The Conspirator" was such a misguided snooZzzzze.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

Well, if Sally Field's CV has taught us anything, it's that she does mental illness quite capably, as proven by her award-winning work in "Sybil" an on "ER" as Maura Tierney's bipolar(?) mother, so this sounds like a good fit for her. I don't know why people take her considerable talents for granted, but she's proven how formidable she is time and time again.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H

Is this going to be based on the Gore Vidal book?
As for Sally Field...she is totally underrated! When given the right material that bitch shines!!

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrobo

She's more than a little old for this part; Mary Todd Lincoln was in her 40s during her husband's presidency. In fact, Field is older than Mrs. Lincoln was when she died in 1882.

That said, with age makeup I'm sure it won't matter. It feels like quite a while since Field had a major screen role.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSCC

I love that she's been cast with Dainel Day Lewis. It means lots of overacting! I love her -- she has that gift that Dianne Wiest has of making me cry without doing much -- her eyes really just do me in -- and I blame her for breaking me down at the end of Mrs. Doubtfire.

Not Without My Daughter -- she is underrated. Her performance in Punchline -- she's awesome. Her 2nd Oscar is tainted by the racist movie her performance is in and the fact that her 2nd Oscar speech is some of the best unintentional comedy in Oscar history.

Will the Academy nominate her for a 3rd time? Gidget -- The Flying Nun -- she's a class act!

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfu11

That 'Lincoln in Illinois' movie looks like crap amazing.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Robo - No, it's based on Doris Kearns Goodwins' book "Team of Rivals" - though anyone who has read Vidal's novel will already be pretty familiar with the thesis and many of the details of Goodwins' book.

I love the casting so far, I'm encouraged that Tony Kushner has remained involved as the primary screenwriter (at least for the past few years), and hope that all of this will trump Spielberg's tendency toward less-than-challenging depictions of historical figures/events. Loves me the Spielberg, but his historical films are not my favorites, really.

Also, f*** Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I'm sure the dude playing Abe is talented (and I realize that's the main point of the mention here) but this is an idiotic meme dragged out to book length, and that a major studio has decided to foist this BS on us (via hack-tastic Timur Bekmandkasgrajsr no less!) is more depressing than a million generic comic book movie adaptations combined. I'm just glad the equally idiotic sounding Pride & Prejudice & Zombies seems to be stuck in development hell.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

About the age difference, I just wanted to say that it surprised me when they announced Amy Adams as Lois Lane in the new Superman. She's almost ten years older than Henry Cavill. It wouldn't have called my attention if the guy had been older, but it kinda shocked me. Good for them, though, Hollywood has proven me wrong.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClover

No problem for me. 60something in 2011 is about the same as 40something, or even 30something in 1860. And the age might take a little bit of edge off Sally's beauty. I mean, let's face it, Mary Todd was no beauty.

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

clover -- good point

April 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I want Spielberg to do The Rivals. I've been waiting for this project for such a long time, even more than I've been expecting Wong Kar-Wai's The Lady From Shanghai. Why?

Two Nicole Kidman wonderful projects that can't get greenlighted!

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Dave, excellent point and very true fact. Actually if we can compare the photos between Sally Field and Mary Todd, the latter looked molder and uglier than Field. Also, Sally Field even looks younger for her 60something.

Clover, I'm glad and hope this would be a new trend in Hollywood...

April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Being "cute" didn't win Sally Field her two Oscars. And she's still brilliant on "Brothers & Sisters" every season, even if the show around her doesn't measure up to what she's bringing to it. Good for her in landing a big film role again like this. It must be discouraging as a creative person to have all of this drive to still work and losing what few opportunities women her age have for roles like this b/c all casting directors know is Meryl Streep's name. Sally Field would have been an incredible Violet in "August: Osage County" for example. But that's opening up another can of worms, so whatever. Best of luck to her playing Mary Todd Lincoln! Hope the "she's too old!' noise won't drown her performance out. For awhile Holly Hunter and Marcia Gay Harden were attached to this role too. All of them are too old to play her now (and Hunter and Kaminski are exes, so no to that too!), so if they're solely going for emotional impact over historical accuracy, I say pick the one that you think can best accomplish it. Let makeup and some great lighting do the rest of the work. Show 'em you still got it, Sally!

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIan
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