Welcome to Irish Heritage Towns
George Clooney is in talks about making a movie about an Irish sculptor’s close friendship with the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln.
News of the possible movie about Co Laois man Launt Thompson comes after the Hollywood actor and director made a private Easter journey to Ireland to meet his Irish relatives for the first time.
Clooney, who dropped in on relatives in Thompson’s home town of Abbeyleix, is looking at telling the tale of Thompson and his friendship with the Booth brothers, John Wilkes Booth and Edwin Booth.
John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln, the US president responsible for leading the Union to victory in the Civil War, on Good Friday 1865 at the Ford Theatre in Washington DC.
The movie is likely to detail the twist of fate which saw his brother Edwin save the life of Lincoln’s son Robert, a Harvard student who almost fell from a train.
Despite Thompson being world famous early in his life and considered one of the most important post-Civil War sculptors, he died in obscurity and was buried in an unmarked grave until recently.
Born in 1833, he emigrated to the US in 1847 with his widowed mother, who had no means of support in Ireland.
They settled near Albany, New York, famous for its artists and sculptors, and Thompson joined their ranks.
Despite a worldwide reputation which enabled him to live and work in Italy for several years before returning to New York, he threw away his success and social status because of his drinking problem.
He was eventually arrested for vagrancy and died in the State Homeopathic Asylum for the Insane in Middletown, New York in 1894.
Abbeyleix man and director of the irishheritagetowns.com website Andy Ring, who met with Clooney last weekend said: “George was very interested in the story of Thompson and the Booths and has asked for the details to be sent to him and his agent which I have now done.
“He thought it would make a movie – which is great. For too long this story has been left untold.
“When John Wilkes Booth assassinated president Lincoln, he became one of the most infamous figures in American history almost overnight. This rapid fall from grace took quite a toll on his family, especially his brother. Edwin, was one of the most accomplished and successful actors of the era.
“When the news of his brother’s crime reached him, Edwin, a staunch supporter of Lincoln, was horrified and at first vowed to retire from the stage permanently.”
After the assassination, Thompson maintained his friendship with the Booths.
It was he who was charged with escorting Mrs Booth, the mother of Edwin and John Wilkes, to a train to Philadelphia after the assassination when her daughter fell ill.