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An open letter to Robert Redford
Respectful letter-writer Bill DeYoung

Dear Mr. Redford:

Can I call you Bob? Probably not. But feel free to call me Bill.

I just wanted to tell you how proud we here at Connect are that you chose Savannah as the location for your film The Conspirator, the story of Mary Surratt, the lone woman to be tried and executed as one of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s accomplices. As you know, this city has a rich history, and actually played several key roles in the Civil War. Savannah may be costumed as 1865 Washington, D.C. in The Conspirator, but that’s good enough for us.

I’m writing to you for several reasons: First, I’ve always been fascinated with the saga of the Lincoln conspirators, and the Surratt family in particular. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend James L. Swanson’s Manhunt: The Twelve–Day Chase For Lincoln’s Killer. Even moreso than the biography American Brutus (which is a great book, too), Manhunt puts you right inside Booth’s twisted mind. A pretty scary place to be.

Here’s what I know about The Conspirator, which you are both directing and co–producing: It’s bankrolled by the American Movie Company, a relatively new production outfit founded by financial wizard Joe Ricketts (who also recently purchased the Chicago Cubs).

Mr. Ricketts has stated that his company will only make films about American history, with strict attention paid to historical accuracy. I understand you have several on–set advisors who are experts on the Surratt case, and the time period.

The film stars the great Robin Wright as Mary Surratt, James McAvoy as her defense lawyer, and a supporting cast that includes Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood, Alexis Bledel and Danny Huston.

Can I just say that casting Kevin Kline as Edwin M. Stanton was a masterstroke?

Richard Dysart played Stanton when The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd was filmed here in Savannah in 1979.

A few days ago, I spoke with Robert Stone, one of your co–producers, from his Los Angeles office. He’s a very nice guy, and personable, but insisted that since you, Mr. Redford, have final say on what transpires between the media and the production of The Conspirator, he wasn’t at liberty to share any information at all with me. About the company – which I was specifically asking about – or the film itself.

Which brings me to the second reason I’m writing. We here at Connect are not interested – remotely – in standing outside the perimeter of the set, hoping to snap “candids” of you and your actors. We are not star–chasers, hangers–on or sycophants, and we don’t have any intention of bugging you on the set, on the street, in your hotel or in Waffle House.

So this letter is a polite request for some sort of peek behind the curtain. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in town is talking about the production. I understand it’s a closed set, and everyone has work to do – but hey, I have work to do, too.

My job is to write a serious story about the film, and the production, and what you want to accomplish with it. Why you’re making the movie in Savannah. Why you chose to take on a Civil War piece in the first place.

If I can write an authorized story – with your blessing – all Savannahians’ questions will be answered in one tidy little package.

So Bob – Mr. Redford – if you’re reading this, how about giving me a call?

Most respectfully,

Bill DeYoung

Arts & Entertainment Editor