Read The Letter Daniel Day-Lewis Wrote To Steven Spielberg Turning Down Lincoln

At last night's New York FIlm Critics Circle awards dinner, both Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg were on hand to celebrate their film Lincoln, which had won the Best Actor prize for Day-Lewis and Best Screenplay for Tony Kushner. If Spielberg was sore about losing Best Director to Zero Dark Thirty's Kathryn Bigelow he sure didn't show it, taking the stage to present Day-Lewis's award and reading the letter Day-Lewis had written him when, unbelievably, he initially turned down the role of Abraham Lincoln.

As Spielberg explained it, he sent several drafts of the film to Day-Lewis before eventually hiring Kushner, and after receiving one of those drafts-- which Spielberg says was more like Saving Private Ryan set during the Civil War-- Day-Lewis wrote him a very thoughtful rejection. Here's that text, via Criticwire:

"Dear Steven-It was a real pleasure just to sit and talk with you. I listened very carefully to what you had to say about this compelling history, and I've since read the script and found it -- in all the detail of which it descries these monumental events and in the compassionate portraits of all the principle characters -- both powerful and moving. I can't account for how at any given moment I feel the need to explore one life as opposed to another. But I do know that I can only do this work if I feel almost as if there's no choice. That a subject coincides inexplicably with a very personal need and a very specific moment in time. In this case, as fascinated as I was by "Abe," it was the fascination of a grateful spectator who longed to see a story told rather than that of a participant. That's how I feel now in spite of myself, and though I can't be sure this won't change, I couldn't dream of encouraging you to keep it open on a mere possibility. I do hope this makes sense Steven. I'm glad you're making the film. I wish you the strength for it and I send both my very best wishes and my sincere gratitude to you for having considered me."Daniel."

You can head over there to read Spielberg's very moving account of the final day of filming, when he heard Day-Lewis step out of character for the first time in four months, and "it made me cry because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to this warm and generous President who I had gotten to know better than all the history books I've ever read." Even if you're not necessarily nuts about Lincoln, you have to admire the incredible passion it took from both director and actor to make it possible.

Katey Rich

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend