The massive cast of Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln has been increased by one. Jackie Earle Haley will play Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Haley bears more than a slight resemblance to Stephens, and I’m happy to see the actor cast in a prestige picture. I’m hoping the role won’t be the boilerplate antagonist type. Stephens was noted for the Cornerstone Speech, delivered prior to the Civil War, in 1961 in Savannah, GA.:
Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.
And yet prior to a life in politics, Stephens made a name for himself as an attorney who successfully defended the wrongly accused; one frequently cited case saw him successfully defending a slave accused of murder. So there’s a bit more to the character than being simply a blinkered defender of slavery.
But we know Lincoln will take place in the final months of the President’s life, so the biggest scenes for Haley as Stephens will probably be part of the Hampton Roads Conference, an unsuccessful February 1865 meeting between Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, Stephens, Senator Robert M. T. Hunter, and Confederate Assistant Secretary of War John A. Campbell intended to bring an end to the hostilities of the Civil War.
The rest of the cast includes: Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, Sally Field, who’ll play Mary Todd Lincoln; Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens; David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward; Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln; and Hal Holbrook, James Spader, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson, Bruce McGill and Joseph Cross, with Lee Pace, David Costabile, Byron Jennings, Dakin Matthews, Boris McGiver, Gloria Reuben, Jeremy Strong, and David Warshofsky in smaller parts.
From the press release that announced the film back in November 2010:
Based on the best-selling book, Team of Rivals, by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, the screenplay has been written by the Pulitzer Prize winner, Tony Award winner, and Academy Award nominated writer Tony Kushner. It will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg. It is anticipated that the film will focus on the political collision of Lincoln and the powerful men of his cabinet on the road to abolition and the end of the Civil War.