First Real Look: Daniel Day Lewis In Steven Spielberg's 'Lincoln'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
August 7, 2012 9:36 AM
7 Comments
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As we creep into the fall season, we've seen a little something — whether an image or a teaser trailer — from almost every major film that looks like it could be an Oscar contender. Until this morning, however, there was one glaring exception, and it's one of the most anticipated of all: Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," which sees America's most successful filmmaker take on his long-time dream project, a biopic of President Abraham Lincoln, with two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis as Honest Abe himself.

The film's due in November, and until recently, all we had from the project were set photos of Day-Lewis in costume. But a first official image arrived this morning, courtesy of EW, and few would deny that Day-Lewis (who's working with Spielberg for the first time), looks the part. And if we're not mistaken, the pic seems to be of President Lincoln on his fateful theater trip, in the final moments of his life.

Adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin's seminal "Team Of Rivals," by "Munich" screenwriter Tony Kushner, the film focuses on Lincoln in the last four months of his life, as he aims to abolish slavery through the constitution, with his family (Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gulliver McGrath), Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn) and rival Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) all set to play major parts in the film, while the cast also includes Jackie Earle Haley, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, James Spader, John Hawkes, Bruce McGill, Adam Driver, Walton Goggins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tim Blake Nelson, David Oyelowo and Hal Holbrook.

Of course, it's Day-Lewis who'll be the center of the film, and Spielberg tells EW a little something about the actor's approach. "Lincoln had a very, very complicated — and at the same time, extremely clear — inner life,” Spielberg says. “He thought things out. He talked things out. He argued both sides of every issue. And he was very careful in making any decision. As a matter of fact, his opponents and his enemies criticized him often for being impossibly slow to a decision.”

And contrary to the rumors that often follow the "There Will Be Blood" star's methodology, the director says that his lead wasn't pretending to be Lincoln for months at a time. "Daniel was always conscious of his contemporary surroundings,” Spielberg says. “Daniel never went into a fugue state. He did not channel Lincoln. All that stuff is just more about gossip than it is about technique.”

Now that the first image is out there, we'll hopefully see a trailer before too long to indicate whether the film will be a stirring biopic, a detailed procedural (as has been suggested), or something between the two. But given the talent involved, and the nomination for the mostly unloved "War Horse" last year, few would bet against Spielberg and Day-Lewis being major contenders on Oscar night next year. "Lincoln" goes into limited release on November 9th before going wider the following week.

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7 Comments

  • Abel Ferrara | August 7, 2012 10:44 AMReply

    Look at his left arm/shoulder. He looks HUGE. The broadest chest in history. Maybe it's just a trick of shadow... Really glad to finally be getting to see something official (though I was actually on set for a few days as an extra and saw DDL in the flesh as Lincoln)

  • kindred spirit | August 7, 2012 10:29 AMReply

    Since Leo is out for Gatsby and I doubt the Academy would go for Phoenix... it's DDL for another win. Great actor, but what a boring choice. I want something outside of the box dammit!

  • d | August 7, 2012 7:44 PM

    Bill Murray

  • Jermaine | August 7, 2012 2:04 PM

    Then stop talking the Oscar into Day-Lewis' hands. Not a single Oscar 2013 decision has been made. Let's just wait and see, shall we?

  • Mike | August 7, 2012 10:27 AMReply

    It's a film aimed at family audiences based on a children's novel, so yes cynicism was leveled at War Horse, but with 77% reviews on RT it's hardly accurate to call it "mostly unloved".

  • Jesse | August 7, 2012 9:56 AMReply

    Well, sorry Joaquin... though we should not forget that Clint is getting blind in Trouble with the Curve. BLIND ! And he's a baseball coach ! BASEBALL ! What an Oscar dilemma : Blind Clint or Abe DDL ?
    Next in our special Oscarbait programme : Meryl Streep stars as Sophocles in Stephen Daldry's biography produced by the Weinstein Company.

  • Eoin Daly | August 7, 2012 9:52 AMReply

    That's very much like the real man

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