Steven Spielberg And Daniel Day-Lewis Delve Into The History And The Mind Of Lincoln

By Eric Eisenberg 2012-11-08 13:04:29discussion comments
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When you’re taking on a particular section of, of Lincoln’s life, how do you decide for the movie where to stop? And was there ever a decision to just have the movie end when the war ends rather than continue on after that?

Steven Spielberg: There was. There was discussion about that as well, but it was very, very important that we felt that Lincoln was able to ride across the battlefield outside of Petersburg, which he did, and have those almost…it was almost the epilogue, between he and Grant, which happened, and the fact that there was some kind of reconciliation in the often written about carriage rides that the President and his wife took. We needed all those moments, I think, to really equip his story of Abraham Lincoln, but I would not have been able to, and Tony Kushner would not have been able… we tried to write Doris [Kearns Goodwin]’s book. His first draft was, as you’ve probably already heard by now, 550 pages long. We needed to focus it in on a working President and a father and a husband. You couldn't do that if that were “the greatest hit list of the life of Abraham Lincoln. It couldn't just be the golden oldies.

Daniel Day-Lewis: A compilation.

Steven Spielberg: The compilation of his entire life. Because we would've been dilatants as filmmakers and as, as actors. We would've just been hitting all the high points and just giving you the headlines and not giving you any sense of the depth of this character, this man.

Mr. Spielberg, you mentioned going back to the 1930s to find films about Lincoln, but I think films about America were a staple of Hollywood for a while, and many of the icons of history were the subject of popular films. Why do you think that fell out of favor and why is the time now right for Lincoln’s story or this chapter in Lincoln’s story?

Steven Spielberg: Well, I would have been very happy to have made Lincoln in the year 2000, the year after I met Doris Kearns Goodwin. It took her a couple years to write the book. It took us more than a couple years to get the screenplay written. So, I wasn’t waiting for a certain time. At one point I flirted with [the movie] coming out on the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, but we weren’t ready to make the picture then. People say, “Oh, you made it because of what’s happening in politics today.” No, we were ready to make it during the Bush administration. [laughs]. It had nothing to do current politics. It had nothing to do with holding a mirror up to the way we conduct our business on Capitol Hill today. This was meant to be a story, a Lincoln portrait if you will. I think any time is the right time for a very compelling story, any time.

And as far as the, the whole idea of doing historical dramas like this falling out of favor?

Steven Spielberg: I don’t know. I don’t know. I think that there have been historical dramas. I mean, not too long ago we had something called the [The] King’s Speech. Nobody knew anything about [that] -- a lot of people that I know didn’t even know there was a king before Elizabeth [laughs]. And that opened a lot of windows, and people said, “Oh, I learned something I didn’t know before.” There’s no bad time or good time. For me when I find a story that I’m ready to tell and the script is right that’s the time to tell it.
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