Petersburg in the Movies


The feature-length movie, Lincoln, is a biographical war drama by DreamWorks, distributed through Disney’s Touchstone distribution label in the U.S. and internationally by 20th Century Fox.  Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, the film marked the third time in less than a year that the City of Petersburg VA was used as a backdrop for a major film. The film is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Lincoln, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and covers the final four months of Lincoln’s life.  Its limited release was on November 9, 2012 and wide release began November 16, 2012.

Lincoln toured Petersburg on April 3, 1865, the day after it fell to the Union Army. Filming in Petersburg took place mainly in the Old Towne area near the historic Farmer’s Market building at 9 East Old Street, and the Union Train Station on River Street. The Farmer’s Market building stood in for a military headquarters and South Side Depot stood in for a hospital. The film’s art department worked with local merchants and the city to give it a more authentic period feeling–some pavement was even covered with mulch.

For more information, read the article in the Virginian-Pilot.

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The Abolitionists

PBS filmed scenes for their AMERICAN EXPERIENCE three-part docudrama, The Abolitionists, in Petersburg to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The mini-series, which will air in 2013, tells the story of how Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison and their abolitionist allies Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown and Angelina Grimke turned a despised fringe movement against chattel slavery into a force that literally changed the nation.

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Killing Lincoln

Actor Tom Hanks joined director Adrian Moat (Gettysburg), Emmy Award-winning writer/executive producer Erik Jendresen who worked with Hanks on Band of Brothers, and producer Mark Herzog’s Herzog & Co. (Gettysburg) for the Nat Geo TV movie, Killing Lincoln. The film is based on Fox News Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever, co-authored with Martin Dugard

Academy Award winner Hanks served as the on-camera host, historical commentator and narrator for the film, from executive producers Ridley Scott and Tony Scott’s Scott Free Productions.

The historical thriller combined CGI and rare historical archive material. Billy Campbell played Abraham Lincoln, Jesse Johnson played John Wilkes Booth, and Geraldine Hughes played Mary Todd Lincoln.

“It’s odd to say the killing of Abraham Lincoln is an unknown story, but it may as well be,” Hanks said. “The depth of the intrigue, the breadth of the conspiracy and the bare-naked exposure of human nature is so timeless, it’s a wonder how that seminal tragedy in our history could ever be explained in a few sentences: ‘Ford’s Theater… John Wilkes Booth, etc. The murder of Lincoln is not a passage of our history – it was a signpost of our American character, then, now and forever.”

The film aired globally on Nat Geo Channel in 2013, in 440 million homes in 171 countries and 38 languages.

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