Page last updated at 05:41 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 06:41 UK

Neeson to portray Lincoln on film

Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson is to play Abraham Lincoln

He has portrayed Irish republican legend Michael Collins, but for Liam Neeson the next republican he plays will be the big one.

The Ballymena-born actor is being re-united with director Steven Speilberg for the role of Abraham Lincoln.

He has also been picked as top judge at the Kerry Film Festival in November.

Lincoln, the first US president to belong to the Republican party, steered his country through a bitter civil war over slavery.

In an article in Scotland on Sunday Mr Neeson said that his research had been very hands on.

"I spent a week down in Washington last June and I had access to this extraordinary Lincoln memorabilia," he told the paper.

"I put my hand on the Bible that he was sworn in on in 1860. I held his wallet that he died with. These people just opened doors for me. I went to his birthplace. I did the whole thing. The more I read about him, the more I admire him."

There are a number of physical similarities between the two men, they share the same height 6ft 4 ins, and enjoyed physical sports in their youth, Lincoln wrestling and Neeson boxing.

Born in 1809 Lincoln became the 16th president of the US, leading the country through the civil war and the Union victory over the Confederacy.

Both have a love of the theatre, with treading the boards being a passion of the County Antrim man.

The president was also a regular theatre goer, however deciding to go to Ford's Theatre in Washington one week after the end of the war proved to be Lincoln's downfall.

Confederate sympathiser and actor John Wilkes Booth sneaked into his box and shot the president during a performance of Our American Cousin.

Ironically Lincoln had seen Booth two years before his death in a performance of Charles Selby's The Marble Heart as the same theatre.

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