Day-Lewis is notoriously picky about the roles he takes and between 1998 and 2009 he only appeared in four movies. He refused to take any other roles for at least a year while he prepared for the part of the merciless oil man in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood,” and while the filmmakers of “Sherlock Holmes 2” courted him for over a year to play the villain role of Moriarty, the producers had to cast Jared Harris at the last minute because Day-Lewis essentially still wouldn’t commit to the role and they had run out of time (in an Empire article last year, Harris even said costumes had even been fitted for Day-Lewis in the off-chance he would take the role).
Suffice to say, Day-Lewis doesn’t say yes often. So naturally, Steven Spielberg had to spend several years convincing the actor to play Abraham Lincoln after Liam Neeson had dropped out of the role.
“It was hard to get him to say yes,” Spielberg chuckled in understatement at the recent press conference for the film. “The man’s life that has been mythologized to that extent in such a way that you can’t get close enough to properly represent it. And I just wasn’t sure that I would be able to do that,” Day-Lewis said about his hesitation. “Beyond that, I felt that probably I absolutely shouldn’t [attempt] that and somebody should do it instead.”
But through research that Spielberg helped supply, the actor finally realized there was an entry point to the character that he could relate to. “The wonderful surprise with that man is you begin to discover him, and there are many different ways in which you can do that. He kind of welcomes you,” he explained. “He’s very accessible. The most delicious surprise for me was [his sense of] humor, to begin to discover that was an important aspect of his character.”
The duo also spoke to Time magazine and
“I’d hear that twinkle-twinkle on my phone, and he would have sent me some ridiculous limerick,” Field told
While no one wants to continue the mythologizing of Daniel Day-Lewis refusing to break character on set, at least not in specific details or anecdotes, members of the cast did say they would not try to break his concentration or engage him in small talk.
“You don’t say to him, ‘Hey, did you see the referees blow that call during the Packers game?’ ” Jared Harris shared. “But you can talk about your own life, personal things. We talked about our dads at one point, memories of our fathers. He stays in character in terms of the accent. The English people on the film were asked not to use their English accents on the set because it might start to pull him off. But you’re not sitting there talking about the Vicksburg campaign.”
“Lincoln” opens in limited release on November 9th and then goes wide on November 16th. The film already screened in early, preview form (apparently not 100% finished, but it didn’t seem that way) at the New York Film Festival earlier this month and you can read about that here. Below the cover of Time magazine and one black-and-white portrait of DDL.