By Anthony Breznican
Updated June 27, 2011 at 10:49 PM EDT
Credit: Keadrick D. Washington/PR Photos
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Steven Spielberg has cast Good Night, and Good Luck Oscar nominee David Strathairn in a major supporting role in his upcoming biopic Lincoln.

Strathairn will play Secretary of State William Seward, which perhaps sounds a little dry, except Seward was a historical badass.

Not only was Seward a fierce abolitionist and a close ally of the 16th president throughout the Civil War, but he also orchestrated purchase of the land that would become Alaska (known at the time as “Seward’s Folly”). He was at his most ninja when targeted by the same group of assassins led by John Wilkes Booth…

Seward was at home, recovering from injuries sustained in a carriage accident when the would-be assassin arrived to stab him to death on the same night Lincoln was shot. Despite being in poor health, he fought off the attacker and escaped with only slashes, surviving another four years. (For more on cool old guys like Seward, consult your local librarian!)

Daniel Day-Lewis will star as Abraham Lincoln in the movie, while Sally Field plays First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, and Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and John Hawkes co-star in the movie, based on the Doris Kearns Goodwin book Team of Rivals. Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner adapted the script.

Filming is set to begin this fall in Virginia, with plans to debut the movie in late 2012.

Strathairn is one of those actors whose face many people know, if not his name. Apart from starring a crusading journalist Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck, he was also the villainous CIA director in 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, and the righteous sheriff in the 1987 union-busting drama Matewan, among many other roles. (For more on cool character actors like Strathairn, consult your local librarian!)

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