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Honestly, this is Abe's big year


  • Benjamin Walker as Honest Abe in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," due out June 22.
Benjamin Walker as Honest Abe in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,"…
February 15, 2012|By Ryan Smith, For RedEye

Wave your stovepipe hat high in the air if you expected Abraham Lincoln to be a bigger movie star in 2012 than Brad Pitt or George Clooney.

Believe it or not, the country's 16th president—whose only notable appearance in the pop culture landscape in the past three decades was a goofy cameo in 1989's "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," in which he proclaimed "Party on, dudes!" while chillin' with Keanu Reeves—is the subject of an upcoming serious-minded Steven Spielberg-directed biopic called "Lincoln" and also appears as an ax-wielding, undead slaying action hero in the film adaptation of the pulpy novel "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."

For many of us who live in the state nicknamed the Land of Lincoln, maybe it's exciting that Honest Abe's Q rating could reach Justin Timberlake-level heights this year. Me? I'm somewhere between "cautiously optimistic" and "slightly mortified" at the prospect of The Great Emancipator becoming a cultural trend.

Maybe that's partly because I'm a little bit more invested in Lincoln's legacy than most. When you're born and raised in Springfield, you can't help but be brainwashed into a kind of civic cult revolving around Abe. If I believed every myth I'd heard about Lincoln as a kid, I may have concluded he was a combination of Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Hulk Hogan.

Nonetheless, I felt a sort of kinship with this man from the 19th century. His story is the ultimate pull-yourself-up-from-your-bootstraps tale, from pauper to president. I never wanted to be a politician, but I did have dreams to one day leave my small town for something better, and he made it all seem possible.

Because of my long-held love for Lincoln, I expected to scoff in righteous annoyance at the sight of my favorite historical figure battling fanged fiends in the trailer for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," released Monday, Abe's observed birthday.

I'd dismissed the book as throwaway nerd bait desperately exploiting the trend of too-clever pop-culture mashups, and I imagined the movie version might have Lincoln hacking away at vampires while wisecracking with Gettysburg Address references ("Four score and seven years ago, I kicked your ass").

My conclusion after watching the minute-long trailer: Seeing a young, frock-coated Lincoln smacking vampires around is way cooler than I imagined, especially when I mentally project that he's somehow taking out the entire cast of "Twilight."

I'm more hopeful for Spielberg's drama, which starsDaniel Day-Lewis—the one actor on the planet who may have enough gravitas to play a man whose face is carved into a mountain. From the looks of the leaked photo of Lewis with his scruffy chin beard and what I've read of the movie, this could be a Lincoln lover's dream.

All I ask is that Lincoln manages to tiptoe around the other pitfalls of contemporary stardom. I don't want People magazine to release a "Sexiest Dead Presidents" issue, cooing about his 6-foot-4 frame, or for a Lincoln impersonator to waltz stiffly on "Dancing With the Stars." And I certainly don't want him to do a guest turn on "SNL" and suffer a Lana Del Rey-like backlash.

I just want history's greatest president to remain, you know, presidential. Lincoln himself once said, "With malice towards none, with charity for all," but that was before Hollywood got a hold of him.

Don't make him get out his ax.


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