Ask the Filmmakers – Round 3

We asked you on Facebook to send us any questions you had for the filmmakers of THE CONSPIRATOR. Here are some more of the answers! Keep asking questions, as we’ll be answering more in the coming weeks.

Cate A. Nelson asked…
Could the filmmakers share the thinking behind the ‘light’ imagery throughout the movie?

In the production, great pains were taken to recreate the look and feel of 1865. Robert Redford started his career as a painter and was very interested in the work of both Rembrandt and Vermeer as examples of the use of light and shadow for the movie. Add to that, the dust created by dirt streets, wood-burning fires and the ubiquitous cigar and pipe smoke, and the result is the shafts of light and shadow treatment that many people have noticed in the film.

Greyford Hunter asked…
Why didn’t the director choose to show what their teeth really would have looked like in the time of no dental care? it worked in the HBO production John Adams.

Actually, for many of the extras we made sure to show their bad teeth. (I have attached a photo). Just as today, good teeth were often a product of class and wealth. Many of the leading characters in the film had the means to have better dental care.

bad teeth in 1865

Michael Goddard asked…
Was the assassination scene filmed at Ford’s Theatre? It appeared much smaller than previous filmed reenactments of this famous scene.

Director Robert Redford, cinematographer Tom Sigel and set designer Kalina Ivanov spent a good deal of time at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, but they concluded that it would be better to re-create Ford’s Theatre on a sound stage (in order to move the camera more easily) than to shoot inside the theater itself.

The Filmmakers

About The Filmmakers

Founded on the belief that real life is often more compelling than fiction, The American Film Company produces feature films about incredible, true stories from America's past. Central to the company's filmmaking will be prominent historians, assuring that each production remains true to the history from which it is drawn.
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4 Responses to Ask the Filmmakers – Round 3

  1. patrice hevia says:

    How important was Edmund Spangler in the whole conspiracy theory? I have a friend who is related to Spangler and after reading many books on Lincoln in our book club, this bit of history was announced. Would love to hear what Mr. Redford has to say!

  2. Laurie Verge says:

    I’m not sure what Mr. Redford feels about the role of Edman Spangler in the conspiracy, but most assassination historians feel that he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Spangler was friends with Booth, having known him while helping to build the Booth family home, Tudor Hall, in Bel Air, Maryland, a decade before the Civil War, and also through working as a carpenter/stagehand at Ford’s Theatre, which was pretty much Booth’s home base while in Washington – even to the point of having his mail delivered to Ford’s instead of the National Hotel, where he always stayed in the city.

    Spangler got caught in the roundup of suspects because of this known friendship and because he often tended Booth’s horse in a stable behind Ford’s. It was Spangler that the assassin called for as he rode up to the back door of the theater in Baptist Alley that night. Spangler, in turn, called on “Peanut John” Burroughs (a sort of errand boy at the theater) to hold the horse because Spangler had stage work to do.

    Another worker at the theater also said later that, as Booth ran across the stage after leaping from the Presidential Box, he recognized the assassin and called out. Spangler immediately told him to “shut up!” — an instinct that many of us would have upon knowing the chaos as well as the friend.

    Spangler was sentenced to six years of hard labor at Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida, but was released in 1869, along with Mudd and Arnold. O’Laughlen had died during the yellow fever epidemic, which earned Mudd his pardon. In the last years of his life, Spangler found his way to Mudd’s Maryland farm, where he was given a room and some land to work.

  3. SCoffey says:

    I am a docent with the Dr. Samuel Mudd home, and enjoy sharing histroy with all of our guest. Also, I perform as the housemaid of Dr. and Mrs. Mudd for private interest groups and dinner theaters. I would love to audition for Mr. Redford for the next go around in August for the parts of ladies that would be available.

  4. SatHanuman S. Khalsa says:

    First, I am very happy that American Film Company is in existence and Director/Actors like Mr. Robert Redford are involved. I have the deepest appreciation for Mr. Redford’s work going back to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”.
    During that time I was in the US Air Force and was about to be assigned to Saigon, Vietnam (1970). I have been fortunated over the past 20 years to be associated with some of the best Civil War historians in the country. The late Brian Pohanka would have loved that an independent film studio was trying to make accurate historical films about real people. Since we are in very historic times the film brings back the dark time in 1865 when our President was assassinated. I have two comments for Mr. Redford. One was a little disarming to me. Mr. Redford says Mr. Kline doesn’t have a long white beard because it distracted the character from coming alive in the film and many folks think of a man with a long white beard as “Santa Clause”. I am a Sikh and a civil war living historian. I am 61 and have a long white beard. I don’t see how that takes away from Mr. Kline’s acting. Secondly but not related, I am watching the historian talking about “Military Tribunals” and the reasons why. He notes that Gen. “Kirby” (Johnson) when he met Gen. Joseph Johnson still fighting in N.C. He combined Kirby Smith and Joe Johnson which I thought was odd. Having been in a couple of civil war period movies I apprecitate that the ‘costume’ department strove to have authentic (aged) silk and distressed wool uniforms and civilian clothes. The scenes were very authentic. I also appreciate the anti-Catholic prejudices which were subtley portrayed in the film. Very important. Thank you American Film Company and all the production staff. Especially gratitude to Mr. Robert Redford, who like me has a favorite American hero which we both loved and respected both as real hero and a great baseball legend in our times- Ted Williams. Your intergrity shows in all that you do in film.

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