Filming may begin early next year

Steven Spielberg will next focus on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.

The director, out promoting “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” has told the German weekly magazine FOCUS that he will return his attention to an epic project about the 16th president, for a DreamWorks film that could begin filming possibly by early next year.

Spielberg will first shoot “Tintin” in early fall.

The director had prepped the Aaron Sorkin-scripted “The Trial of the Chicago Seven,” but that became sketchy after he could not get rewrites during the writer’s strike. Spielberg had enlisted Sacha Baron Cohen and talked to other high profile thesps about starring in a drama about the trial of anti-Vietnam war protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. That film will have to wait.

The Lincoln project could be ready for an early 2009 shoot because of several variables: Spielberg has proved adept at shooting back-to-back films, which he did most memorably when he made “Jurassic Park” and the Oscar-winning “Schindler’s List” in 1993. Also, his Lincoln project — informed by the biography by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” — has a strong script by “Angels in America” playwright Tony Kushner (who rewrote “Munich” for Spielberg).

Spielberg also has Liam Neeson –who played Oskar Schindler — ready to play Lincoln. Neeson agreed more than three years ago to play the role for Spielberg, and has been waiting for a start date.

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