Chris Albrecht hadn’t even cleaned out his desk before HBO was lining up a promising new mini-series. The network has secured the rights to the New York Times bestseller, "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer" from Walden Media, which had acquired the film rights before the publication of James Swanson’s book.

Bookcover

Seems HBO will not use Walden’s script designed to play up their once-attached star, Harrison Ford. Ford was initially cast as Colonel Everton Conger, a character who doesn’t even appear until the book’s final pages.

Naturally, totally improbable action scenes were created to give Ford his trademark determined scowl time, such as a scene in which Union soldiers, led by Ford, shoot at Booth’s dinghy over the prow of their gunboat. Adding inaccuracies to an historical film is always a sure-fire way to lose a target audience.

To get an idea of how shocking Booth’s crime was, imagine if George Clooney shot President Bush a few days after we’d won the war in Iraq. Yep, that’s how bizarre Lincoln’s assassination was.

With HBO’s intervention, this detailed account of Lincoln’s assassination, Booth’s escape and the ensuing 12-day chase and media frenzy, could turn out as riveting as Swanson’s book. Surely the network that gave us "Rome," "Elizabeth" and "Deadwood" can handle this historical epic.

The only question is who will play Booth?  Walden tried – unsuccessfully – to snag Johnny Depp to play John Wilkes Booth,
the charismatic and well-known stage actor with smoldering eyes and
countless mistresses. Depp declined the role and no wonder, given the
abysmal script.

For my money, it has to be an unknown. Please HBO, don’t get Leonardo DiCaprio or (I beg you!) Orlando Bloom. I think I’ve found your Booth…

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Meet Will Kemp, best known in the US as that dancing hunk in the Gap Ad with Sarah Jessica Parker. Click here for the Quicktime Gap video.

Kemp is a classically trained British actor/dancer who starred in Matthew Bourne‘s "Swan Lake" and "Car Man." Sherry Lansing has dubbed him "the James Dean of ballet." So he could definitely handle the leap onto the stage after shooting Lincoln during a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC.

His film career is admittedly in its early stages; he played the doomed Prince Velkan in "Van Helsing and died beautifully, as befits Booth. He’s currently starring in "Equus" with Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) on London’s West End. I saw him perform there last week and his portrayal of the sexy, enigmatic "Horseman" proved he’s a perfect Booth. Will got more applause than the young (and naked) Daniel.

For more on Kemp, click here. C’mon, HBO. Take a chance on an unknown. You’ve done it before.

Photo Credits: Will Kemp with a "Miguel and William" co-star. He plays William Shakespeare in this film about the playwright’s "lost years."
WireImage

Posted by:Elizabeth Snead