Ask the Filmmakers – Round 2

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.


Mike Lanalotti asked…
What was it like to screen the film at Ford’s Theatre?

A little stirring and a little spooky. We had all screened the film numerous times, but seeing it right there (at the scene of the crime) and seeing the presidential box onscreen just twenty feet away the real thing was eerie. The thought that crossed my mind? I wish Lincoln were here so he could see this.

Melanie Horne asked…
When Reverdy Johnson comes out of a small room, we hear a toilet flush. Did they really have flush toilets in Washington, D.C. in 1865?

You’re not the first to ask us about this. Many people believe there were no flush toilets at the time, which is untrue. The question is: were there flush toilets in Senator Reverdy Johnson’s office in 1865? This was discussed on set and our Props Department came back with the answer that some of the newer federal buildings did have flush toilets (though the White House did not). So we went with the flush toilet.

Gregg Watkins, Jr., Laurie Verge, and others asked…
Why didn’t Kevin Kline who played Edward Stanton have a long white beard like the real Stanton had?

Yes, the real Stanton had a long white beard, a symbol of his elevated station in society. And Kevin Kline did try out the long beard. The problem was that it was too distracting. In this day and age a long white beard connotes Santa Claus – not the image we wanted. We felt it would be hard for the audience to “see through” the beard to the real character of Secretary of War Stanton as portrayed by Kevin Kline.

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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9 Responses to Ask the Filmmakers – Round 2

  1. Donald Andisik says:

    I have a question. Was there any subtle romantic interest by James McAvoy character Frederick Aiken in his passionate defense of Robin Wright’s Mary Surratt ?

    • Laurie Verge says:

      In The Conspirator, Aiken is portrayed as being engaged to Sarah Weston. In real life, they had been married since 1857. Further, there was a large age gap between Mrs.. Surratt and Aiken. If there were any emotional attachment between the real pair in 1865, I feel that it would have been more of a mother-son relationship as portrayed at the end. However, I’m even doubtful about that. I think Aiken was a lawyer doing his duty.

      • Rabiya says:

        The man is the Secretary of State William H. Seward. He was targeted for death also. He had reetcnly been in a carriage accident and had broken his collarbone. The bandages and splint were immobilizing his neck and shoulder area and likely saved his life. When conspirator Lewis Powell (alias Paine) broke his revolver over the head of one of Seward’s sons, he then turned to a knife to stab the Secretary. He was trained to go after the jugular vein, but the bandages and splint blocked a killing blow.

  2. Diana Paul says:

    Robert Redford, as a director, has focused on the tragic deceptions people commit in order to save themselves. He has chosen his cast wisely. Robin Wright is the vulnerable pallid-faced prisoner, stoic and fiercely loyal to her son and daughter. The actress is virtually unrecognizable, practically silent throughout, but riveting in conveying subtle expressions weighed down by the burden of grief and bewilderment. At the heart of “The Conspirator,” is the interface between fear and injustice, the crushing of human rights. Who really is the conspirator and who is listening?
    For the full review, see: http://www.unhealedwound.com

  3. mildred quinones says:

    why is this awesome movie playing at limited or selected movie houses? Have not been able to view since it is limited?????

    • Laurie Verge says:

      I wish somebody would answer that question. They have done a very poor job of distributing it in my opinion, and the publicity almost stopped once it was released.

      I can’t tell you the number of complaints I have heard at Surratt House Museum in Maryland about the poor distribution. People are driving over an hour to find a theater that is showing it.

      Ironically, the true history of the Lincoln conspiracy and Mary Surratt took place in Southern Maryland, right outside Washington, D.C. Not one theater in the two counties where the plot was hatched and through which Booth escaped has shown this movie as of today. That’s a built-in audience that is being ignored, and the area is a bedroom community for federal government workers and military personnel.
      Bad distribution practices Roadside Attractions…

    • LinNa says:

      I don’t do Facebook, but may I ask this: Why did someone deicde to give Kevin Kline such a neat and trim beard when Edwin Stanton is always remembered for his long and slightly unruly beard. It is one of the main complaints that I have heard on various history blogs and by our visitors at Surratt House Museum over the past two weeks. When I first saw a pre-screening in January, I almost yelled out in the theater!

  4. jbaumun says:

    I noticed the absence of the long iconic “Stanton beard”, and was not able to get passed it, as far as character recognition goes ; like McCartneys violin bass, or Chaplins cane, or even Lincolns beard, you just expect to see it. But, Klines portrayal of Stanton seems to match historical records- I feared him .

    • Glen Strock says:

      Another historical point of interest is that that Stanton did suffer remorse and on his death bed said,”The Surratt woman haunts me.”

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