Credit: Spielberg: NBC; Day-Lewis: Bob Charlotte/PR Photos; Oscar Statuette: ©A.M.P.A.S.®


With the news yesterday that Steven Spielberg’s long-in-the-works biopic Lincoln finally has its start date (Fall 2011) and lead star (Daniel Day-Lewis), we couldn’t help but notice the serious accolades adorning every corner of the film already: The director has won three Oscars (and an Irving G. Thalberg Award), and has been nominated seven more times; the star has won two Oscars, and two more nods; the book the film is based on, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; and the screenplay was penned by Pulitzer Prize, Tony, and Emmy-award winner Tony Kushner, who won an Oscar nod for his screenplay for Spielberg’s 2005 thriller, Munich.

That’s a lot of hardware already, enough to make this movie pretty much an automatic Oscar contender for 2012. But first, they’ve got to cast that eponymous team of rivals for Lincoln’s cabinet, his wife, and (likely) his assassin John Wilkes Booth. And in the spirit of Kearns Goodwin’s book, it just made sense to us that the rest of the cast also be a team of rivals… for Oscar nominations. So, forthwith, our guesses for what could be one of the most Oscar-laden casts ever:

First up, Mary Todd Lincoln. Nine years her husband’s junior, she was famously wracked with depression while living in the White House — the death of your 12-year-old son and siblings in the Civil War (fighting for the Confederacy, no less) can do that to a person. Candidates: Hilary Swank (two Oscars); Kate Winslet (one Oscar, five nominations other than her winning one).

William Henry Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State and eight years his senior, was long considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 1860, until Lincoln won the support of major G.O.P. party big-wig and newspaper magnate Horace Greeley (cameo by two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks). He survived an assassination attempt the same night of Lincoln’s murder, even though he’d been stabbed in the neck and face. Candidates: Robert De Niro (two Oscars, four other nominations); Tommy Lee Jones (one Oscar, two other nominations);

Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s first Secretary of the Treasury, was another Republican candidate for president against Lincoln. He famously put himself on the very first federal $1 bill. Candidates: Kevin Spacey (two Oscars); Sean Penn (two Oscars, three other nominations)

Edward Bates, Lincoln’s Attorney General who was 15 years his senior, was Lincoln’s third major rival for the Republican nomination in 1860. Candidates: Jack Nicholson (three Oscars, nine nominations); Dustin Hoffman (two Oscars; five other nominations)

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the leader of the Union Army and 13 years Lincoln’s junior, won the Civil War and was a devoted supporter of the president. Candidates: Philip Seymour Hoffman (one Oscar, two other nominations); Russell Crowe (one Oscar, two other nominations)

John Wilkes Booth, the 26-year-old actor and Confederate sympathizer shot Lincoln in the back of the head at point-blank range mere days after the official end of the Civil War. He was caught and killed by Union soldiers 12 days later. Candidates: Ryan Gosling (one nomination); Casey Affleck (one nomination); Adrien Brody (one Oscar)

So what do you make of this speculative cast, PopWatchers? Do you think hiring only Oscar-celebrated actors proved to be the best policy? Or are there actors with fewer (or no) official accolades who are better fits for these roles?

More on Lincoln: