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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Mr. Spielberg, it sounds like your intention was really to chronicle the dramatic historical time period that Lincoln was at the helm of the country. Because we’re in a politically charged moment in time, people are going to write about this, look at the movie and try to look at it in context to what’s happening today. Do you have any interest in seeing how people interpret it in that way?

Steven Spielberg: Of course. Of course. And, and by the way, here’s the good news. The good news is the Constitution: the Founding Fathers put together the principles of a Democratic Government that are so sound and, and unsinkable that the process from 150 years ago is not that much different than the process of today. I think that really is one of the values of holding up a mirror to all of us who only experience what we experience and have no frame of reference except what we read or what we view in documentaries about that time, that there are tremendous similarities between the politics then and the politics today. And I’m really excited to see how deeply people will reach to, to contemporize our film far beyond how it deserves to be contemporized [laughs].

One of the most relatable and human elements in the film to me was just seeing Lincoln and his son Tad and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about Lincoln as a father and the very complicated relationships that we see play out.

Daniel Day-Lewis: It certainly seems to be true that there was the relationship between him and his eldest son, Robert, who you see in the film was perhaps the least resolved, the least explored of his relationships. There was a distance there I think largely because of the work that he’d been doing on the judicial circuit, which had taken away from six months of any given year. And also political campaigns and then in office and with Robert at University and so on. But there’d been a certain distance there. By the time we meet him in the story he’d lost two sons. He lost a child when they were in Springfield as well. He had a very interesting attitude towards parenthood, which is surprisingly modern, almost. I think it almost exceeds the degree to which we’re able to be modern [laughs]. And he believed that there was a total absence [laughs] of any parental authority whatsoever. And that was a conscious decision and it may well have been largely influenced by the very harsh disciplinarian that he had as a father himself. And his experience of childhood would've been a very bleak, very difficult one. He was forced to – as many young people were at that time from the moment – I think that they moved from Kentucky to Indiana already he and his sister were struggling to survive almost on their own.

When his father went back to bring what the lady became Mrs. Sarah, who became his stepmother, he was away for a long, long time. And they just had to exist in the wilderness and get on with it. And I think he had to grow up very quickly. His father certainly was not a man who had much tolerance for books, and I think a great conflict. It was no love lost. But he made a wonderful statement. I mean, it’s a strange image to use, cause it conjures up an image of slavery, but I think he used the image of love creates the links that chain a child to the family, to the parent. It’s not dissimilar to that, and the image anyhow is, is about right.

Anyhow, to cut a long story short, there was absolute chaos in the White House, because it I think it actually both through sort of scientific point of view. I think he enjoyed so much watching the chaos that Tad created [laughs]. He was armed to the teeth apart from anything else with all kinds of weapons, cannons, and flint locks, and swords [laughs]. And he had the goat-drawn carriage that he had, which he always kind of careening about the corridors of the White House. And I think Lincoln really enjoyed watching, observing the bedlam that ensued from all his adventures, but also I think it was just pure love. I think he felt such a pure love for love.

I’m not saying that this is good parenting in contemporary times, that you just let them to do whatever the hell they want, but it’s an interesting choice to make at that time in that place [laughs]. And, of course, Mary, again, during this part of the story is more or less an absentee as a parent and therefore the bond between Tad and Lincoln became so very precious to both of them because he was, he was the, the primary, um, parent at that time.
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