Billy Campbell as Abraham Lincoln? Hard to wrap your mind around, of course, as mesmerized as the nation is these days by that other actor playing the 16th president in that other movie you might have heard about.
But, no, Billy Campbell is Abraham Lincoln! Soon as the veteran TV leading man (“The Killing,” “Once and Again”) walked in the door Monday for National Geographic Channel’s screening of “Killing Lincoln,” we thought, well, duh — why didn’t anyone think of this sooner? Square jaw, twinkly eyes, dark thatchy hair, majestic slab of a forehead.
And tall. Campbell’s not just tall for an actor. He’s tall for a person.
“When we saw they were casting, we thought, ‘Well, how many six-foot-four actors are there out there?’” Campbell’s manager Sean Fay told us.
This must have come up before, no? People telling him he should play Lincoln? Was it on his wish list? Nope, Campbell shrugged. “I don’t walk around thinking of myself as Lincolnesque.”
Yeah, yeah, we know, we just wrote another Lincoln story this week, about that other “Lincoln” movie, but what can we say — Lincoln is having a moment. Midway through the 150th anniversary commemorations of both the Civil War and his administration, we’re bombarded with all things Abe. “Killing Lincoln,” a kind of documentary/docudrama hybrid based on the bestseller by Fox host Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard , will air Sunday, just a week before Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis head to the Oscars to scoop up trophies for the theatrical “Lincoln.” (O’Reilly, on the air that night, did not attend.) And in case you forgot, Tuesday is the Great Emancipator’s birthday.
So, was it strange to be playing Lincoln at the same time that DDL is getting so much hype and maybe a third Best Actor prize for doing the same? (And God help us, we actually said it like that, “DDL,” like that’s a thing people say. Probably the wrong question to ask regardless.)
“I don’t really think of it that way,” Campbell said neutrally, noting that it’s “a slippery slope” for an actor to mull over other actors’ takes on a role.
Heading into the party, we gave the clipboard lady our name to check against the guest list, and the star politely went through the motions as well.
“Abraham Lincoln,” he told her.
“You’re good to go,” she said.