Two weeks ago, aides to Gov. Bob McDonnell were vociferously denying that there was any done deal to bring Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln movie to Virginia.
But on Wednesday, McDonnell (R) confirmed what we have known for months: Spielberg will film his movie in Richmond and Petersburg.
The film will be based on the 2005 book “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin and will star Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. Filming is expected to begin in the fall for release in 2012.
The film will be given $1 million from the Governor’s Motion Picture Opportunity Fund, $2.5 million from the Virginia Motion Picture Tax Credit program and $1.1 million in in-kind contributions. The amount of funding awarded to a project is based on Virginia workers hired and the purchase of Virginia based goods and services.
“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.
Lincoln, the 16th president, visited Richmond, the former capital of the confederacy, in April 1865, right after the city fell and shortly before he was assassinated.
Spielberg was scouting locations in Richmond in November when he stopped to have lunch with Rita McClenny, director of the Virginia Film Office, and Andy Edmunds, the office’s location manager, at Millie’s Diner.
The next day, Spielberg announced that his long-anticipated Lincoln biopic would focus on the road to abolition and the end of the Civil War.
McDonnell called Spielberg in December to help try to convince him to bring his new movie to Virginia. The two men spoke for about 20 minutes — mostly about their shared interest in World War II, sources in McDonnell’s administration tell us.
The General Assembly approved an amendment in April to the state’s two-year, $78 billion budget that would include $1.5 million to replenish the state’s motion picture opportunity fund after money was set aside for the Spielberg movie.
Legislators also passed a bill this year allowing a tax credit of up to 20 percent for movies filmed in the state with expenses of at least $250,000 for taxable years beginning Jan. 1, 2011.
But since November, one state official after another — from the film office, the office of Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s office — repeatedly denied a deal was in the works, even though sources told us it was a done deal. It turns out McDonnell and his folks aren’t the only ones who fear public attention. As Lincoln himself once said, “What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.”