When casting seems too good to be true, it usually is. According to a Digital Spy report, Neeson is no longer slated to play our 16th President in Steven Spielberg's long-gestating Abraham Lincoln biopic, the actor recently stating that "I was attached to it for a while, but now I'm past my sell-by date." An odd comment to make given how flagrantly untrue it is, and all. Whatever factors contributed to Neeson and Spielberg parting ways over this stagnant project, I find it enormously difficult to believe that any involved parties were motivated by a sincere belief that Neeson is no longer appropriate for the role.
As wonderfully natural as he was in the shoes of Darkman, Oskar Schindler, or K-19: The Widowmaker's Mikhail Polenin (er... scratch that last one) Abraham Lincoln is perhaps the role that Neeson and his towering gravitas were born to play. Beyond the fact that he's of the ideal height and stature, Neeson's capacity for blending brusque confidence with a profound tranquility have always made him seem an obvious candidate to play Honest Abe, and I anticipated his second collaboration with Spielberg largely because I thought he might make for the best Lincoln since Henry Fonda. And unless Spielberg was quietly planning on going all X-Men: First Class with this film and setting it during Lincoln's teen years, Neeson sure still looks the part (he's 58 - Lincoln was 55 going on 112 when he was killed).
But that's show-business, and now Neeson is slated to play President Lyndon B. Johnson in Lee Daniels' Selma (and I'm slated to remind Neeson that Precious was not a good movie, and that Shadowboxer was only a movie by definition). So the question becomes who should step in to fill Neeson's enormous shoes?
My favorite candidate might be John Hawkes, whose anachronistic looks and primal affectations made him so memorable in Deadwood, Winter's Bone, and pretty much everything else in which he's ever appeared. If he dropped his voice down an octave or five and buried the angles of his face in a bushy Lincoln beard, I could totally buy it.
Other actors that semi-seriously spring to mind include an aged Adrien Brody (because he's got the face for it, even if his voice is too nasal), Nicolas Cage (because "Nicolas Cage as Abraham Lincoln" is the kind of sentence that gives kittens their whiskers and whatnot), and Daniel Day-Lewis (because he's Daniel Day-Lewis). I'm not necessarily convinced that this film is even going to happen now that Neeson is gone, but if it does, it could very well become another Amistad without the right Lincoln. And no one wants another Amistad. So in the hopes of saving a project with no small degree of potential - it would be a shame to let any Spielberg / Tony Kushner collaboration die on the vine - who do you think would make a Lincoln worth filming?