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Chasing Daniel Day-Lewis: Spielberg Asked Him To Play 'Lincoln' Seven Years Ago & The Actor Initially Turned Him Down

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist December 22, 2011 at 12:14PM

While younger actors (like Jessica Chastain and Michael Fassbender for example) crowd up their schedules with work early on in their career to gain exposure and experience, it'll be interesting to see if any follow the eventual path taken by Daniel Day-Lewis. The acclaimed actor was certainly busier in the early stages of his career but by the mid-90s the gaps between his films started to stretch out and now, DDL is equally known for the dedication to his work and the lengthy breaks he takes between pictures. Right now, the actor is suiting up as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's long gestating "Lincoln." And while Liam Neeson was long attached to the part (and eventually grew too old to play the part), it seems Spielberg got the man he wanted all along.
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Daniel Day Lewis Lincoln

While younger actors (like Jessica Chastain and Michael Fassbender for example) crowd up their schedules with work early on in their career to gain exposure and experience, it'll be interesting to see if any follow the eventual path taken by Daniel Day-Lewis. The acclaimed actor was certainly busier in the early stages of his career, but by the mid-90s the gaps between his films started to stretch out, and now, DDL is equally known for the dedication to his work and the lengthy breaks he takes between pictures. Currently, the actor is suiting up as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's long gestating "Lincoln." And while Liam Neeson was long attached to the part (and eventually grew too old to play the part), it seems Spielberg got the man he wanted all along.

“I’m so excited to work with one of the greatest actors of our time,” Spielberg recently told the Chicago Sun-Times about working with DDL. “He wouldn’t say ‘yes’ for years. He even turned me down seven years ago when I asked him to play Lincoln. I think he was intimidated. You think about playing Lincoln, and it’s true that he was too great a man."

But Spielberg kept chasing his first choice, and thanks to a solid screenplay, he eventually bagged the mercurial actor. “So, Daniel said no, but I kept on going back to him. Then Tony Kushner wrote the screenplay and Daniel had never read his script. When he did read it, he understood the man.”

Not only does he understand him, as recent set photos have shown, he's a dead ringer for him too. Certainly Spielberg couldn't ask for any better actor to take on the lead role in what will be one of the biggest movies of his career, and we'll be curious to see the results. Will DDL's performance be matched by a script and movie worthy of his immersion in the part? We'll find out when "Lincoln" hits theaters in December 2012.

This article is related to: Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, Lincoln


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