“How much of this story did you personally know about when you first read the script?”

Embarrassingly, not much. I knew John Wilkes Booth shot and killed President Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. I knew very little of the larger conspiracy or the aftermath. I’ve talked with a lot of people subsequently and based on my conversations, I’m not alone. This is one of those stories that slipped through the cracks of our history lessons. And it’s such a great story. The country was in a tremendously fragile state—the Civil War had ended only five days earlier, armies were still on the battlefields—and in the midst of this anxiety and chaos the country’s core values and founding principles were being challenged in a very personal way.

Robert Redford

About Robert Redford

Director Robert Redford offers his insight into the talent, themes, and making of The Conspirator, due in theaters April 15.
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16 Responses to “How much of this story did you personally know about when you first read the script?”

  1. Melody says:

    Mr. Redford-
    I love American history and now anxiously await The Conspirator’s release. After visiting the Ford Theater Museum in D.C., my family and I were intrigued by this story. This project could not be more timely as we see how
    the history of Our Great Nation remains so important today as much as the fabric our flag has held through centuries of challenges. I would recommend anything you can read from David Barton, if you are not aware of him. How about Thomas Jefferson or George Washington next ! Thank You!

    • tafc says:

      The American Film Company’s website includes a section devoted to the projects we are developing. Current projects include Midnight Riders, the true story of the spark that ignited the American revolution, and The Arsenal, about John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. To learn more visit theamericanfilmcompany.com/films.

      • Renata says:

        Hello, Mr. Redford As the great-great-grandaughter of the Hon. Reverdy Johnson, I am very, very pleased to falilny see someone take an interest in this chapter of U.S. history. It is such a fascinating case during what must have been the most tumultuous of times; to think that a miltary court would decide the guilt or innocence of ordinary citizens! As you may know, my g-g-grandfather, Senator Reverdy Johnson was a long-term representative & constitutional lawyer from MD; he served as U.S. Attorney General in Zachary Taylor’ s administration & it was he, at his own professional & personal peril, who first questioned the legality of this tribunal involving Mrs. Surratt, et al. While I believe that the outcome of this or any other trial at that time of upheaval & strife would have been the same I’ve always envisioned the public clamoring for a swift & bloody justice no matter what the actual circumstances I am so proud of my g-g-grandfather for raising his voice & speaking out on behalf of ordinary people citizens, like you & me. I look forward to seeing your film & I sincerely thank you for bringing this story to the public’s attention.

  2. Herb Swingle says:

    After researching Frederick Aiken and finding his two letters to Jefferson Davis offering his services to the Confederates.I now feel that the Civil War era is even more complex than ever.The assassination conspiracy is being unfolded and coming to “light” through this tremendous movie.

  3. John Cloud says:

    The Kernel of this story came to a head several years earlier in the history of John Brown. In his life one sees the passion of racism unfettered and confronted for the first time. His story is the core of this story. The justification of Slavery and the passions that compelled the South to cling religiously to fostering and maintaining this atrocity…THERE is where this story should begin. Otherwise the thread of this story does not realize the core of the tension…what it means to be…a Southerner.

  4. Tom Carrano says:

    I’m a teacher in Los Angeles who saw a screening of this movie. I will make sure this story doesn’t slip through the cracks. This movie encompasses 3 passions of mine; Film/Drama, History, and a little theology. Thanks for the after movie conversation, that doesn’t happen often. The passions I mentioned, many Americans hold as well. I hope it gets larger distribution.
    Thanks for the memories, enjoy your work.
    Tom Carrano
    Los Angeles, CA. 91803

  5. michael laycox says:

    the question of secretary of war stanton involvement in the assination is of great interest. why would an individual as ruthless and meticulous in all apect of war allow office parker to be assigned to protect the pesident and why would mary lincoln request the transfer of officer parker, a known alcoholic to be transferred to the house to protect lincoln. so many strange things. hopefully a good movie.

  6. Larry Graham says:

    I am always looking for a new civil war experience. I hope this film finds enough general distribution to reach the nearly 1,000 civil war reenactors is the wilds of Washington state. I’m looking forward the the release date and hope the film is better that “Gods & Generals.”

  7. B Chervenak says:

    Mr. Redford

    As a long time fan whenever I learn you are going to make a new movie I try to educate myself about the subject matter in order I know something about it beforehand. So it is with the case of The Conspirator. You were right when you wrote “This is one of those stories that slipped through the cracks of our history lessons.”.

    My reading and research at the National Archives has revealed quite a bit actually, even enough for a follow up film The Conspirator II. You might find it interesting along with Mrs. Surratt and the men who were convicted at the conspiracy trial there were known to be other persons of interest. Some of the names of those suspects shall raise an eyebrow I bet as they are a mix of men Northerners and Southerners from of all places on earth New York City!They include a man with a last name which could easily be confused with your own, Reford, in cahoots with Mrs. Surratt’s son John, a Watson, a Boyd, a Wood, a Celestine, and a Demill. Now it would really be something if Demill was related somehow to Cecil B. DeMille?

    Good luck. I hope your new film is a fan favorite and a critics choice. God bless!

  8. Rob S. says:

    Mr. Redford and B. Chervenak

    I got to see The Conspirator at a screening in Los Angeles and was impressed by the film’s content and its intent to show that the government was guilty of the execution of an innocent women for no other reason than to answer calls for blood after Booth’s assassination of Lincoln.

    As for further info about New York collaborators to Booth’s mad act, there are two books I’d like to suggest which are surely easier to find than National Archive files Blood On The Moon by Dr. Edward Steers Jr. and Come Retribution by retired Brigadier General William A. Tidwell. Both books reveal the role of the rebel secret service. Sure enough stuff for a sequel.

  9. B Chervenak says:

    As a woman I’ve been a fan of Mr. Reford’s for years not so much for him being a sex symbol or a ladies man but for his being a director who is sensitive to the female point of view and a sensual leading man. As a senior citizen and a widow, I think of him as an old friend who I have grown old with.

  10. Laurie Verge says:

    I agree completely with Rob about the books Blood on the Moon and Come Retribution being excellent resources for further expansion of the Lincoln assassination story. General Tidwell also followed up with a more extensive study of the Confederate Secret Line activities with a book entitled April ’65.

    If we allowed ourselves the opportunity, the whole story of the Lincoln conspiracy from capture schemes against the President from 1862 on – by at least three other operatives before Booth inherited it- through the final days of Booth’s escape could be an American epic.

  11. Rob S. says:

    I certainly hope B. Chervenak didn’t take my comments about visiting the National Archives as uncomplementary. I too think of Mr. Redford’s films like catching up with a familar friend. My apologies for any confusion.

    I agree, Laurie Verge, the assassination of Lincoln by Booth is one of those things that never seems to get stale. I think the movie Mr. Redford has made will make sure of that.

  12. B Chervenak says:

    It appears chivalry is alive and well in 2011. Thank you, Rob. Too bad it wasn’t summer of 1865 for Mary Surratt.

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