Ask the Filmmakers – Round 6

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.


Megan Hardgrave asked

Why did the film not explicitly state John Surratt’s whereabouts when it has been stated as fact that he left for Montreal, Canada days before April 14, and then fled to Europe?

While the film suggests that John Surratt fled to Canada, we do not explicitly state his whereabouts because his location was left unknown to our central characters. The film is essentially told through the eyes of Frederick Aiken, who did not know where John was hiding – and wanted nothing more than to find him and bring him to justice.

Ames Tolbert asked…

After watching the film, I went online and found photos of the execution. Everything in the film seemed to match the photo exactly…did you shoot at the actual fort?

We did not shoot the execution scene at the real Arsenal Penitentiary in Washington, as the penitentiary no longer exists. It is now the site of the National Defense University in Washington, DC. Instead, we replicated the scene at Fort Pulaski in Savannah, GA.

 Additionally, our production designer, Kalina Ivanov, and the rest of the crew took great pains to recreate this pivotal scene as closely as possible. They were aided by all of the photos taken by Alexander Gardner that day.

Adam Carman asked…

Where did you get the idea that the actors from the theatre were incarcerated?

Many actors and people associated with the theater were questioned and detained at the Old Capitol Prison, according to our consulting historian Dr. Thomas Turner. For example, actor John Ford was definitely held in the prison and Laura Keene was arrested in Pennsylvania and held in Cincinnati after leaving Washington.

 Hundreds of people were detained during the manhunt that occurred after the assassination and the Ford’s Theatre actors were just a few.

Robert Redford

About Robert Redford

Director Robert Redford offers his insight into the talent, themes, and making of The Conspirator, now in theaters (April 15).
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14 Responses to Ask the Filmmakers – Round 6

  1. Ana Faya says:

    I don’t have any question. I just want to thank you for this film. There are no good or bad guys in a civil war.

  2. James F Morrison says:

    So far, we have seen only the trailer, but Conspirator has been highly praised by our astute friends. We look forward to seeing it. However, the trailer clearly underscored the Brits’ rightful criticisms that our films are very often too dark (underexposed) and have dialogues in which the actors far too often barely mumble their lines almost inaudibly. IMO, both castigations are very hugely and widely justified, and not just in this trailer. Best wishes out there Mr. Redford, definitely one of our favorites, and to any other producers who might hopefully recognize and remedy these particularly egregious and highly annoying defects.

    • Hunny says:

      According to Christian Rath, the man in chgare of preparing the scaffold, he did the three men’s nooses first because he never expected that they would hang Mary Surratt. When no reprieve came, his hands were tired, the rope was getting short, and he still thought that there would be a last minute stay of execution. He only put five turns to the noose.Very few people thought that Mary would hang. In fact, the military stationed cavalry along the route between the White House and the Arsenal Penitentiary in order to quickly alert the officials if President Johnson stayed the execution of Mary. Of course, such an order never came.

  3. r williams says:

    why was the noose different for mary surratt

  4. Laurie Verge says:

    According to Christian Rath, the man in charge of preparing the scaffold, he did the three men’s nooses first because he never expected that they would hang Mary Surratt. When no reprieve came, his hands were tired, the rope was getting short, and he still thought that there would be a last minute stay of execution. He only put five turns to the noose.

    Very few people thought that Mary would hang. In fact, the military stationed cavalry along the route between the White House and the Arsenal Penitentiary in order to quickly alert the officials if President Johnson stayed the execution of Mary. Of course, such an order never came.

  5. imri rapaport says:

    Dear Mr. Redford,

    After we saw your film “the conspirator” we had a quite vigorous discussion within the family concerning the fact that an American President could cancel an (court?) order given by a judge.

    Any kind of researches in the internet did not prove that this is, according to the US constitution of 1787, possible.

    Was that done only as a substitute to a clemency which failed?

    I. & G. Rapaport, Berlin, Germany

  6. AJ Kidd says:

    I just watched this excellent movie On Demand, and I have one question. It may have been the sound or the accent (which isn’t that hard for me as my mother is a southerner), but did I hear someone ask Aiken about passing the Bar? I thought the Bar wasn’t established at that time?

    • Adriano says:

      Dear Mr. Redford,After we saw your film “the croopisatnr” we had a quite vigorous discussion within the family concerning the fact that an American President could cancel an (court?) order given by a judge.Any kind of researches in the internet did not prove that this is, according to the US constitution of 1787, possible.Was that done only as a substitute to a clemency which failed?I. & G. Rapaport, Berlin, Germany

  7. Sue Myers says:

    I just saw the DVD version, and I was extremely impressed with the historical accuracy of “The Conspirator.” I enjoyed the pacing of the movie and the characterizations from the actors. I think this would be a great movie to discuss with any type of book/movie group. Thank You for such an adult movie. S. Myers

  8. SL Osoro says:

    I loved the film but was distracted to hear a flushing toilet supposedly done by one of the characters. No working indoor toilets in that time period. Otherwise a GREAT flick!!!
    Best from Colorado
    SL

    • Laurie Verge says:

      Actually, the U.S. Capitol did have bathrooms with flushing toilets. However, there was not one inside certain Senators’ offices as implied in the movie when you hear the flushing and Reverdy Johnson walks out into his office.

  9. Mehdi Schneyders says:

    Dear Madam, dear Sir,

    I am a coloured half Belgian half South African and I live in Belgium. Since the age of seven ( I am 32 years old ), I am very impassioned by the American Civil War. On friday 2nd of December, I have watched ” The Conspirator ” and I saw three mistakes :

    1. The general behind the Secretary Stanton – when he was hurried to see Abraham Lincoln’s body – wears a Major General’s frock coat ( two stars ) with the rank of Brigadier General ( one star ) on the shoulders. Even the insignia on his ” Hardee Hat ” is not correct. It belongs to infantry.

    2. The general – who read the judgment to Mary Surratt – wears a Brigadier General’s frock coat with the rank of Major General on it.

    3. During the execution, a Brigadier General wears an infantry insignia on his ” Hardee Hat “.

    Otherwise, the film is brilliant. But I would like to know something. Why black soldiers are not present among the guards? And what about the black civilians in Washington D.C.? I have not seen them… excepted the barman and the servant!!!!!

    Have a nice day.

    Cheers.

  10. Paul says:

    Kudos for producing/directing a story in our history, which still opens up new questions & discussions . .

    It’s somewhat disconcerting, however, that one of
    the actresses, with 23 roles (& is a producer), should have
    her poster credit listed only at the top of this website and
    not on any of the commercial posters. Plus, the photo of Alexis Bledel is seen first on your website gallery. A bit ironic. I know there’s a heirachy in listing actors, but leaving Ms Bledel’s name off the commercial posters lacks any consideration for her, & her thirteen years in the business (even if she had asked not to be listed, it’s still a professional courtesy she has well earned).
    And Alexis certainly made a very elegant & gracious presence for the premieres in D.C. & Toronto.
    Quite a disappointment in the decision making process of marketing the film, leaving a well known actress’ name (with a speaking part & fleshed-out character) off the posters . . .

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