Tom Hanks Narrates National Geographic Channel's KILLING LINCOLN, Premiering Today
April 14, 1865. One gunshot. One assassin hell-bent on killing "a tyrant," as he charged - the 16th president of the United States. And in one moment, our nation was forever changed. This is the most dramatic and resonant crime in American history: the true story of the killing of Abraham Lincoln.
Premiering during Presidents Day Weekend tonight, February 17, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, and encoring at 10 p.m., National Geographic Channel's first original scripted drama, Killing Lincoln, presents one of the most significant events in our country's history. With fresh historical insight, the film thrillingly chronicles the final days of President Lincoln and the treasonous plot by one the most notorious, yet complex villains of all time. Killing Lincoln will also premiere globally on National Geographic Channel in March 2013, in 171 countries and 38 languages. For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com/killinglincoln and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/NGC_PR.
Narrated on camera by Oscar(R)-winning actor Tom Hanks, the film stars Billy Campbell ("The Killing," "Once and Again") as Lincoln and introduces Jesse Johnson in a breakthrough performance as John Wilkes Booth. Produced by Ridley and Tony Scott's Scott Free Productions, the film adapts Bill O'Reilly's best-selling book into a two-hour global television event. Additional cast includes Geraldine Hughes as Mary Todd Lincoln, Graham Beckel as Edwin Stanton, who served as secretary of war under the Lincoln administration, and Shawn Pyfrom as Private John W. Nichols. Shot on location in and around Richmond, Va., Killing Lincoln is directed by director Adrian Moat ("Gettysburg"), written by Emmy Award-winning writer/executive producer Erik Jendresen ("Band of Brothers") and produced by Mark Herzog's Herzog & Co. ("Gettysburg").
Killing Lincoln has all the components of a thrilling crime novel: conspiracy, public assassination, an unprecedented manhunt. This is both an electrifying look at a shadowy scheme cultivated during the rapid-fire succession of closing Civil War events and a wrenching journey to understand a reviled "madman."
With the North all but assured of victory after four years of war, Southern stalwart John Wilkes Booth is plotting vengeance. He views President Lincoln as a tyrant eager to eradicate not just slavery, but the Southern way of life. He launches a clandestine plot to kidnap the president and spirit him away to the South - an under-the-cover-of-darkness mission that ultimately fails. But out of that failure comes a dastardly new plan: to kill President Lincoln. Booth's ultimate success in murder would shock a nation and spark the largest manhunt in the country's young history.
"The prevailing image of Booth is one of a two-dimensional, mustache-twirling villain," Johnson says. "My job was to dig deeper. Show that he was as complex as a Shakespearean character he portrayed on the stage. Demonstrate the artistry, obsession and Southern rigor as well as the virulent disdain for an 'inferior' president that culminated into his own bloody, one-act play."
Says Campbell, "Lincoln is so adored, so universally revered today that it's easy to forget he was a controversial president - one with many enemies - in fact he repeatedly dreamt of his own assassination. We felt it important to convey this hidden side of Lincoln, this sense of his almost wasting away with premonitions of death, even as he was outwardly so poised and steadfast through the closing of the war."
With palpable tension, the production dramatically counts down the president's last days and actions leading up to the April 14 assassination at Ford's Theatre: Lincoln has six weeks to live, days to survive, hours to breathe one last time ... and concludes with the aftermath of his murder.
The film opens in August 1864 - a year before his murder - as Abraham Lincoln is riding his horse alone. A gunshot is fired and goes through his $8 top hat. He has been in office four years and 41 days and the intensity of the hatred level toward him, even by members of his own party, is extreme. Juxtaposed with this is The Following scene of John Wilkes Booth on stage performing, as swords clash and the audience cheers wildly.
Viewers are then introduced to Booth's zealousness in a letter he writes and asks his sister to lock in the safe: "right or wrong, god judge me, not man.... My love as things stand today is for the South alone. Nor do I deem it a dishonor in attempting to make for her a prisoner of this man [Lincoln] to whom she owes so much misery."
On Tuesday, April 11, 1865, speaking to roaring crowds at the White House after Robert E. Lee surrenders, Lincoln is within range of a pistol. Booth is in attendance and promises that it will be Lincoln's final speech. The stage is set: Abraham Lincoln has less than four days to live.
The "attack" time is set for 10:15 p.m. on April 15, 1865. Booth's co-conspirators have their plan: Lewis Powell is to kill Secretary of State Seward in his home on Lafayette Square; David Herold will then guide Powell out of the city via the Navy Yard Bridge; George Atzerodt is to kill Vice President Johnson at the Kirkwood House Hotel; and Booth will kill Lincoln at Ford's Theatre.
After having a drink at the Star Saloon, Booth is admitted into the theater, crosses underneath the stage and works his way up into the presidential box, where he aims the pistol and fires the fatal shot at the President. Lunging off the balcony, he runs to center stage and shouts, "Sic semper tyrannis!"
John Wilkes Booth has less than 12 days to live.
Executive producers are Tony Scott and Ridley Scott, as well as David W. Zucker, Mary Lisio, Mark Herzog, Erik Jendresen and Bill O'Reilly. Directed by Adrian Moat. Written by Erik Jendresen. Based on the book by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. Produced by Christopher G. Cowen and Adrian Moat. Line producer is Larry Rapaport. Narrated by Tom Hanks. Billy Campbell stars as Abraham Lincoln, Jesse Johnson as John Wilkes Booth. Geraldine Hughes stars as Mary Todd Lincoln, Graham Beckel as Edwin Stanton and Shawn Pyfrom as Private John W. Nichols. For National Geographic Channel, executive producers are Howard T. Owens, Charlie Parsons, Teri Weinberg and Richard E. Wells.
For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com.
About National Geographic Channel
Based at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channels US are a joint venture between National Geographic and FOX Cable Networks. The Channels contribute to the National Geographic Society's commitment to exploration, conservation and education with smart, innovative programming and profits that directly support its mission. Launched in January 2001, National Geographic Channel (NGC) celebrated its fifth anniversary with the debut of NGC HD. In 2010, the wildlife and natural history cable channel Nat Geo WILD was launched, and in 2011, the Spanish-language network Nat Geo Mundo was unveiled. The Channels have carriage with all of the nation's major cable, telco and satellite television providers, with NGC currently available in 84 million U.S. homes. Globally, National Geographic Channel is available in 440 million homes in 171 countries and 38 languages. For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com.
About Scott Free Productions
Scott Free Productions was formed in 1995 and is the film and television production vehicle of acclaimed film directors: brothers Ridley and Tony Scott. Scott Free Television produces the Emmy(R) and Golden Globe(R)-nominated, Peabody acclaimed drama, The Good Wife for CBS which is currently enjoying its fourth season, and the eight-hour adaptation of World Without End, Ken Follett's international best-seller featuring Cynthia Nixon, Ben Chaplin and Miranda Richardson on Reelz. Scott Free also produced the recent four-hour adaptation of Robin Cook's Coma for A&E, starring Lauren Ambrose, Geena Davis, James Woods, Richard Dreyfuss and Ellen Burstyn, the Emmy(R) and Golden Globe(R)-nominated mini-series The Pillars of The Earth for Starz, the hit CBS show NUMB3RS, which ran for six seasons, the Emmy(R)-nominated mini-series The Andromeda Strain, starring Benjamin Bratt and Viola Davis, also for A&E, as well as the Golden Globe(R) nominated The Company for TNT featuring Michael Keaton and Alfred Molina.
Upcoming is the film event Reykjavik, set to shoot next year starring Michael Douglas as Ronald Reagan and Christoph Waltz as Mikhail Gorbachev, about the now famous meeting between the two leaders that signaled the end of the Cold War, and also an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. New projects in television development include Girls With Guns, written by The Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King, the 24 Hours at Le Mans drama, Drivers, from Michael Hirst (The Tudors), as well as new drama projects from Barbara Hall (Judging Amy) and Glenn Gordon Caron (Medium).
In addition to scripted fare, Scott Free has firmly established its nonfiction presence by producing the Epic Emmy(R)-winning documentary Gettysburg for History Channel, and the upcoming documentary Killing Lincoln for National Geographic Channel.
Scott Free Films most recently released Ridley Scott's visionary Epic Prometheus to worldwide acclaim, starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron as well as the international hits The Grey, Tony Scott's Unstoppable, and the YouTube backed sensation Life in a Day. Next for Scott Free is Stoker, the English language debut of Park Chan Wook (Old Boy) at FOX Searchlight, starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode, The East by director Zal Batmanglij starring Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, and Ellen Page also for Searchlight, Out of the Furnace at Relativity, written and directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) starring Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, and Forest Whitaker, and The Counselor at Fox, which Ridley Scott is currently directing from Cormac McCarthy's script, starring Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.
Scott Free has offices in Los Angeles and London in conjunction with RSA Films, one of the world's largest and most successful commercial production houses.