To be honest, those with long memories aren’t all that
enthusiastic about being back in business with Steven Spielberg. They recall
all too well the hassles that were associated with 1990’s “Arachnophobia,” that thrill-omedy
that Hollywood Pictures co-produced with Amblin Entertainment. Not to mention Michael
Eisner’s brutal battles with Spielberg over who really controlled Roger Rabbit. Which -- because neither man would yield -- is
what ultimately did in that once-promising franchise.
And then when you factor in that John Lasseter, Jerry
Bruckheimer and Robert Zemeckis are already working for the Mouse … It’s not like Disney doesn't already have a group of 800-pound gorillas to deal with. So
when you add a Hollywood silverback like Spielberg to the mix (Who will expect to
be treated with a certain amount of deference & respect by Mouse House
management because he’s Steven Freakin’ Spielberg after all) … Well, there are those who
see nothing but misery ahead for poor Dick Cook & Oren Aviv. Who will now have
to deal with these four very powerful men as they all jockey for the very best
release dates for their films, take issue with the way Mickey is trying to
market their movies, etc.
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But Bob Iger really wanted this deal to happen, claiming that it would be the perfect corporate fit (i.e. DreamWorks gets access to Disney's world-class distribution system, while Disney can then cash in on the pay-TV distribution & DVD sales of these same films). Which is why -- at least for the next five
years --Steven Spielberg's company will now be creating new content for the Mouse House. And of those 30 DreamWorks
films that Disney will be releasing under
its Touchstone Pictures banner … Iger's allegedly hoping that at least five or six of them will be directed by Spielberg himself.
Which begs the question: Which project will Steven
select to be his directorial debut at this new Disney-distributes-DreamWorks set-up ? From what I’ve been hearing, it could
well be “Lincoln,” Spielberg’s long-in-development film about our 16th
Based on what Tony Kushner (i.e. the Pulitzer
Prize-winning playwright that Steven hired to write the screenplay for this
Abraham Lincoln biography) said this past Monday night, the decision to go forward
with production could come as early as next week.
Liam Neeson at last year's premiere of "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian." Copyright Disney / Walden Media. All Rights Reserved
As for casting … Over 4 years ago, Spielberg asked Liam
Neeson to play the Great Emancipator. This Academy Award-nominee immediately
said yes. Only to then have the start date of this bio pic repeatedly get
But nowadays Neeson sounds confident that “Lincoln” is
really going to happen. And soon. In press interviews that he recently did for “Taken,”
Liam talked about how Steven really wanted to capitalize on the Bicentennial of Honest Abe's birth (And here's an interesting bit of trivia for all you JHM readers out there: Abraham Lincoln was born 200 years ago TODAY). Which is why a Spring 2009 start for this project now looks quite
As for the rest of the cast … Back in 2007, Steve
reportedly asked Sally Field if she’d be interested in playing Mary Todd
Lincoln. Just as Liam Neeson did back in 2005, the star of ABC’s “Brothers
& Sisters” immediately said “Yes.” Only to then have this production get
pushed back so that Spielberg could go off and shoot “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
So is Sally Field still Spielberg’s first choice to play Lincoln’s First Lady …
To be honest, I'm not sure. Lately, there's been a lot of talk that Marcia Gay Harden may also be in the running for this role. But given that the folks at Amblin Entertainment
have “Lincoln” tentatively slated to start shooting in April (Which is when “Brothers
& Sisters” will be on hiatus, having wrapped production of its third season
in March) … That’s a somewhat hopeful sign for Ms. Field.
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My apologies if today’s article is coming across as
somewhat vague. But you have to understand that “Lincoln” hasn’t been
officially greenlit. Not yet, anyway. That decision – as Tony Kushner mentioned
at Monday night’s “Looking at Lincoln in His Time and Ours – A Conversation on
Abraham Lincoln” panel at the Harvard University Institute of Politics – should
come sometime next week.
And even then ... Well, it's not like Spielberg is going to be available to start directing “Lincoln” anytime soon. Especially since he’s only three weeks into helming his
first-ever performance capture picture, “Tintin.”
But that said, there are lots of less-than-subtle signs that Steven's "Lincoln" is really going to happen. Take -- for example -- this talk I had earlier today with
someone associated with the redo of WDW’s “The Hall of Presidents.” The unnamed individual was complaining about how WDI may now be forced to revamp this attraction yet again in
2010. All because some bone-headed Suit at the Studio just suggested that they bring in a celebrity to do Abraham Lincoln’s voice.
Before this Imagineer could continue their rant, I
then interrupted. “This celebrity? He wouldn’t happen to be Liam Neeson, would he?”
“Yeah,” they laughed. “How’d you know?”
So even though Steve’s pre-existing arrangement with Universal Studios prevents him from doing any consulting on rides, shows and
attractions for the Disney Parks … That doesn’t mean that the Mouse isn’t
already looking for ways to take advantage of the DreamWorks films that it will soon be distributing. Leverage these properties & personalities out into the
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And – yes, before you ask – it has also supposedly been suggested
that Neeson provide vocals for Disneyland’s soon-to-be-revamped “Great Moments
with Mr. Lincoln” attraction. With the props & costumes from this upcoming Spielberg
film then reportedly being put on display in the pre-show or post-show area.
But before all of you theme park preservationists out
there start carping about “Great Moments with Liam Neeson” … Let’s remember
that this DreamWorks movie hasn’t even officially been greenlit yet. More importantly, that the
guys at WDI always do this (i.e. talk about how they’ll possibly make use of some
upcoming release in the theme parks). Just today the Imagineer that I was
yacking with brought up how he hopes that “Tron 2” will become this huge success. So
that Imagineering could then revisit an idea that was originally proposed back in
1982. Which was to replace the PeopleMover with the Lightcycles from “Tron.”
Anyway … That’s the latest buzz out of Burbank. That there
are a lot of people who now work at the Studios who aren’t all that thrilled that
Steven has a new deal with the Company. More to the point, that the first really-for-real Spielberg film that Disney will be distributing (possibly in late 2009. More likely 2010) might be DreamWorks' big screen version of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”
Well, there has been a lot of Lincoln love going around lately.
And those studio execs need to get over themselves. Reading between the lines I see a bunch of wannabes upset because they won't be able to "fix" projects like they'd like to. Let's see, should we be excited about more genuine artists joining Disney or concerned for the studios having to meet their demands for artistic respect? It's not like we're talking about a bunch of prima donnas here.
If they take away the T.T.A I will cry. It's my favorite ride!
A Lincoln biopic woul be very interesting. As I am an amatuer Lincoln scholar, I would pay to go see that. I hope they include some dramatic events such as the oldest boy, Robert Lincoln, running away from home, which he did do on some occasions. Or how Abraham and his father Thomas weren't on speaking terms when Thomas died. I mean, make Lincoln as close as possible to the real person. I also think Nieeson (spelling) will be a great Lincoln. He's a fantastic actor and he sort of looks like him in a way.
Or how about a movie that tells how things might have turned out if Lincoln had not been assasinated?
I show apathy to the clashing egos of studio heads, but I'm REALLY excited to se Liam Neison play Lincoln; I feel that he would do the role justice without playing to a romanticized ideal of the President. I'm a fan of his work, and would love to see him replace the in-park vocals for Lincon. There would be continuity - and the movie tie-in would be subtle [unlike the many Disney/Pixar rethemes of classic rides]. Liam Nieosn for the win!
These are nervous times in Hollywood, as elsewhere. And the spectacle of Steven Spielberg reduced from