I really enjoyed Spielberg’s Lincoln. And it seems that I’m not the only one. The movie will probably net Daniel Day Lewis a third Academy Award. And it’s certainly profitable.
So it wouldn’t surprise me if the studio is thinking about sequels. Fortunately, the era is so rich that there is tremendous potential for further films with many in the same cast reprising their roles. This wouldn’t be unprecedented. After Peter O’Toole had an Oscar nomination for playing King Henry II in Becket, he received another nod for playing the same role in an adaptation of The Lion in Winter, another drama about the monarch by a different playwright.
Here, I use the term sequel loosely to refer to any film that can feature members of Lincioln‘s cast reprising their roles. In some cases, these films would be prequels. In others, it would cover material that occurs at the same time. And there are actual potential sequels as well.
The Lincoln/ Douglas Debates
One of the most fascinating stories in American political history is the rivalry between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, which culminated in an incredible series of debates between the two men regarding the direction of the country. Douglas won the battle, as he was reelected to the Senate thanks to gerrymandering with the state legislature (this was before the 17th amendment). Lincoln won the war, as his strength in those debates allowed him to become the Republican presidential nominee and defeat Douglas for the larger prize, just in time for an actual war.
Team of Rivals
While Lincoln used some material from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent biography, it mostly ignored the fascinating story of how a former one-term Congressman outmaneuvered the most prominent politicians of his day, who he then placed in his cabinet. Some served with distinction, especially Seward, the former President in Waiting, ably depicted in the film by David Strathairn. Others did not, especially Salmon P Chase, Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary, who tried to maneuver against him in the next presidential election.
In 1864, Scott McClellan, a former top General ran against Abraham Lincoln as the Democratic nominee for President. Their rivalry can be the basis of a worthwhile film, in addition to the story of the three military victories which allowed Lincoln to secure reelection, as well as his legacy, making passage of the thirteenth amendment possible.
Lincoln and Grant
This piece in Cracked about how Ulysses S Grant was the most impressive alcoholic in history can actually be the basis of an impressive film about how an undistinguished former army captain with a reputation for impertinence became the most important American General since Washington.
Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman’s Unproduced John Wilkes Booth Screenplay
In an interview with Jeff Goldsmith’s much-missed Creative Screenwriting podcast, Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie discussed a script he wrote about John Wilkes Booth with actor Dylan Kussman. He recalled Kussman’s pitch.
Now he tells me, there are five things I want to tell you about John Wilkes Booth. When I get to the fifth one, if you don’t want to do the movie, you don’t have to do it. I said okay.
John Wilkes Booth was the most famous man in America, and the most photographed man in America, next to Abraham Lincoln. This was before he killed Abraham Lincoln. I didn’t know that.
John Wilkes Booth was part of the royal family of American theater. His father was considered the greatest American actor of the century. I didn’t know that.
John Wilkes Booth was part of a conspiracy to assassinate three people on the night Abraham Lincoln was killed. There were three assassination attempts that were carried out, and Booth’s was the only one that was successful. I certainly didn’t know that.
John Wilkes Booth was secretly engaged to the daughter of Abraham Lincoln’s Ambassador to Spain, who was also being courted by Abraham Lincoln’s son.
At that point, McQuarrie was interested in co-writing the film. Scorsese was impressed by the script, and wanted DiCaprio as Booth. Although he also wanted to make The Departed first. The screenplay has languished for the last few years, because of a general lack of interest in Civil War films in Hollywood. I suspect that has changed. So I see no reason this screenplay can’t be done with Joseph Gordon Levitt reprising his role as Robert Todd Lincoln.
Thaddeus Stevens VS Andrew Johnson
Tommy Lee Jones has merited much acclaim for his performance as Republican congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln. Stevens also played an important role in the career of accidental President Andrew Johnson, who ascended to the office after Lincoln’s assassination, and blundered his way through it. His arguments with Stevens over the direction of reconstruction led to the impeachment trial, covered by JFK and Theodore Sorensen (let’s be honest, it was mostly Sorensen) in Profiles in Courage. The only knock against this as a film is that when Tommy Lee Jones reprised his Academy Award winning role from The Fugitive in U.S. Marshalls, it didn’t work out that well.