Spielberg’s Lincoln movie to film in Va. this fall

RICHMOND, Va. — Steven Spielberg has selected Virginia to film a biography of Abraham Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis, elated state and local officials announced Wednesday.

Principal filming is scheduled to begin this fall at various historical locations in Petersburg and Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy. The film is scheduled for release in 2012. Sally Field will play Mary Todd Lincoln.

The Virginia Film Office said Spielberg, who has filmed twice before in Virginia, selected those two cities because of the abundance of historic properties that date to the period. The state also offered financial incentives totaling nearly $5 million.

“Virginia is just teeming with historic heritage,” said Mary Nelson, a spokeswoman for the film office. “We just have wonderful architecture.”

The film is based on the Doris Kearns Goodwin book “Team of Rivals,” a 2005 best-seller that examines Lincoln’s presidency and the Civil War. Tony Kushner will write the screenplay.

“Virginia’s rich historic legacy, coupled with the remarkable period architecture found in Richmond and Petersburg, make central Virginia the ideal location for this production,” Spielberg said in a statement released through the governor’s office.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said the state is honored to be selected for Spielberg’s highly anticipated film.

“It is especially notable coming during the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and emancipation,” McDonnell said in a statement.

Spielberg had been scouting locations in Richmond and Petersburg over the past year or more. He has made at least one trip to the Museum of the Confederacy in downtown Richmond, also home to the former Confederate White House, and has been seen in an area restaurant. Lincoln visited the former White House after Richmond’s fall.

On March 28, 1865, Lincoln met with the Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union armies, and Gen. William T. Sherman at City Point in Hopewell to discuss the closing phases of the war. Grant’s headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg were located at the site, which overlooks the James and Appomattox Rivers. Nearby Petersburg still retains architecture, some with battle scars, from the Civil War.

On April 4, Lincoln walked through the streets of the defeated smoldering capital of Richmond, where he was cheered by freed slaves.

“Bless the Lord, there is the great Messiah!” a former slave said as Lincoln arrived in the city, sailing up the James River from Petersburg, according to accounts from the period.

“You must kneel to God only,” Lincoln replied, “and thank him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy.”

But in a city known for towering monuments to the South’s Civil War heroes, a humble statue dedicated to Lincoln in 2003 drew protests from Southern loyalists who view the 16th president as a northern invader.

Spielberg filmed portions of the “War of the Worlds” and “Minority Report” in Virginia. HBO’s series “John Adams” used locations in Williamsburg and Richmond, and “Cold Mountain” also included a Richmond scene.

Asked to size up the Spielberg production, Nelson said, “Is it the most important? I don’t know, but it certainly is going to be one of the most remarkable.”

The Virginia Film Office developed an incentive package that includes $1 million from the Governor’s Motion Picture Opportunity Fund, $2.5 million from the Virginia Motion Picture Tax Credit program, and $1.2 million in in-kind contributions.