It's hard to imagine Steven Spielberg's Lincoln without Daniel Day-Lewis' Oscar-winning central performance — but Day-Lewis wouldn't have been there if Liam Neeson hadn't voluntarily dropped out of the project. Why would any actor voluntarily vacate such a slam-dunk role? In a new cover story at GQ, Liam Neeson describes the moment he realized he was the wrong actor to play Abraham Lincoln.
According to Neeson, Steven Spielberg first approached him to star in an early version of Lincoln 10 years ago. He spent four years researching to play Lincoln in what he describes as "a wonderful kind of old-fashioned biography of Lincoln," which began with his inauguration and ended with his death. But Tony Kushner's script rewrite narrowed Lincoln's focus to the final four months of the president's life, as he worked to push the 13th amendment through the House of Representatives.
The trouble began when Neeson sat down with Lincoln's cast and creative team for a table read. "We started reading this, and there was an intro, and then I see 'Lincoln' where I have to start speaking, and I just — a thunderbolt moment. I thought, 'I'm not supposed to be here. This is gone. I've passed my sell-by date. I don't want to play this Lincoln. I can't be him," says Neeson.
"I read very, very poorly by any standards, but then some people come up afterward and say, 'Oh, you're made to play Lincoln.' I just was cringing with embarrassment. Afterward, Steven came over, and I said, 'Steven, you have to recast this now.' And he said, 'What are you talking about?' And I said, 'I'm serious. You have to recast it.' So I went back home, and that night I called [Doris Kearns Goodwin], and I had a wee chat with her. And then I called Steven, and I said, 'Steven, this is not for me. I can't explain it. It's gone. It's not...' And he got it. He said, 'Okay.' And that was it."
Still dreaming of an Abraham Lincoln biopic starring Liam Neeson? You may get your wish someday. "I'd still like to do Lincoln's story," Neeson conceded. "I think [Lincoln] shows him, yes, but I think I'd still like to do an old-fashioned biography of Lincoln." Scott Meslow
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Sunday faulted Iraqi troops for allowing the Islamic State to conquer Ramadi, saying the homegrown forces lacked the "will to fight."
"What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Carter said in an appearance on CNN. "They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves."
Last weekend, ISIS captured Ramadi as Iraqi troops fled and left behind weapons provided by the U.S. Days later, ISIS overran the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra as well. Jon Terbush
Cleveland police over the weekend arrested 71 people who participated in largely peaceful protests following the acquittal of a police officer in the 2012 killing of two unarmed black people.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said protesters became more "aggressive" throughout the day, adding that officers only intervened when they "became violent and…refused to disperse."
On Saturday a judge acquitted officer Michael Brelo over a 2012 incident in which police, after mistaking the sound of a car backfiring for gunshots, fired 137 rounds into a vehicle, killing both occupants. Brelo climbed onto the car's hood and fired 15 times through the windshield, though the judge ruled prosecutors did not prove those shots killed the couple. Jon Terbush
John Nash, the famed Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who inspired the film A Beautiful Mind, died Saturday in a taxi crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. The 86-year-old Nash and his wife, Alicia, were both killed when the driver of their taxi lost control and slammed into a guardrail. Police said they believe neither Nash nor his wife, who were ejected from the vehicle, were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident. Known for his work in game theory, Nash won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1994. Jon Terbush
At least one person died and dozens of states of emergency were declared following widespread flooding across Oklahoma and Texas over the weekend. A firefighter in Claremore, Oklahoma, died while trying to rescue a colleague who became trapped in a storm drain, though the trapped firefighter was able to make it out safely. Flooding in the region forced more than 1,000 evacuations, with officials warning that even more rain on Sunday could trigger potentially "historic" flooding. Jon Terbush
An international coalition of female activists led by feminist Gloria Steinem on Sunday crossed the highly militarized border between North and South Korea in an effort to spotlight the need for reconciliation between the two nations. The group, WomenCrossDMZ, consisted of about 30 participants including Steinem and two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee. "We feel very celebratory and positive that we have created a voyage across the DMZ in peace and reconciliation that was said to be impossible," Steinem said. Jon Terbush
The leader of Burundi's opposition party on Saturday was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in the capital of Bujumbura. Zedi Feruzi, the leader of the party Union for Peace and Development-Zigamibanga, and a bodyguard were shot dead by unidentified gunmen just one day after a grenade attack killed at least two civilians in the same city. Burundi has been rocked by unrest — including a failed coup — for weeks since President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would run for a third term. Jon Terbush
The Bank of England apparently needs a refresher on how to keep a classified project…classified.
An editor for The Guardian received an email on Friday, accidentally forwarded by the Bank's head of press, which details plans to research the financial repercussions of a British exit from the European Union. Nicknamed Project Bookend, the not-so-secret work was meant to be carried out by just a few senior officials, and examine how a "Brexit" would affect the country's export's and major cities' economies.
The email noted that any questions from the press should be answered by saying that "there is a lot going on in Europe in the next couple of months…that would be of concern to the Bank."
A note to the Bank's staff on the project: Take a good, long look at the "CC" field before you send any of Project Bookend's results. Also, consider a better name than Project Bookend. Sarah Eberspacher