Steven Spielberg Says 'Lincoln' Will Not Feature The Civil War; Producer Kathleen Kennedy Debunks Daniel Day-Lewis Rumors

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by Jen Vineyard
December 13, 2011 10:04 AM
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To promote "War Horse" and "The Adventures of Tintin" these past two consecutive weekends in New York, director Steven Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy had to make runs back and forth from Virginia, where they're currently shooting "Lincoln."

"It's been crazy," Kennedy told The Playlist. "We were saying the other day, we're all pretty tired, and we don't think we'll try to juggle all that again! It wasn't part of any plan [to release the two films at once and do promotion while shooting a third], and we didn't envision it would happen this way. But things just present themselves, and you say, 'Okay, we'll do the best we can.'"

"Lincoln" started as a film project even before the book that it's based on was published. "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin "was being written as we were writing the screenplay," Kennedy said. Goodwin's book wasn't yet published or even finished when Spielberg optioned it in 2005, having sent a couple of scriptwriters to take a look.

Strangely enough, Goodwin's book was inspired in part by a photograph of a beardless Lincoln, but it's the image of a bearded Daniel Day-Lewis that's been causing a first-look stir. "That's not actually his Lincoln beard," Kennedy said. "That's just what he looks like right now. He wasn't in hair, makeup, wardrobe, or anything when that picture was taken. He had just gone out that evening, he was just having dinner, and someone snapped a photo of him. But doesn't he look like Lincoln in blue jeans? I had friends who called me going, 'Oh my God, oh my God, it looks like Lincoln!' It's pretty remarkable when you look at that photo, and you say, 'Oh my God, he really embodies Lincoln,' because he does."

Dispelling rumors that Day-Lewis remains in character as he's been known to do on other sets, Kennedy described the actor instead as being "immersive." "He's very immersive in his technique, in what he does," she said. "He speaks primarily to Steven, but he's a very serious actor and he takes very seriously the job of acting and what he does. We've all had a great interaction with him. He's been fantastic."

Other actors in the star-studded cast -- which includes Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, Bruce McGill, Joseph Cross, David Strathairn, Walton Goggins, Lee Pace, Jackie Earle Haley, David Oyelowo and Jared Harris -- are also getting "immersive." Gloria Reuben, who plays Mary Todd Lincoln's seamstress and confidante Elizabeth Keckley, told The Playlist that "all of us are doing so much research, it's insane." For her part, she's practicing needlework.

"I've never done anything in this time period before," Reuben said, "so I've been doing a lot of sewing! I'm working on that part of my brain, the visual part, because it's all about shapes and textures and angles."

Reuben also took a two-week road trip through Virginia and North Carolina to get a sense of where her character was from and how she lived in her first 27 years of life. "It was quite extraordinary," she said. "It was such an inspiration to see the buildings where she lived, even if a lot of the original structures had collapsed."

Since Spielberg is focusing the story on the last few months of Lincoln's life as he pushed the 13th Amendment through Congress, "there are no war scenes," the director said. "We're not doing the Civil War."

"We're primarily basing the story out of Washington," Kennedy said. Accordingly, many scenes are being shot in the antechambers of the capitol building in Richmond, Virginia, which is doubling as the White House and the Congress.

"We often think, 'Are people going to want to see this movie?'" Kennedy said. "And I really hope they do, because it's so rich and timely and important to tell this story now."

"Lincoln" is gearing up for a late 2012 release, sometime after the presidential elections. Until then, get prepared with a plethora of interviews with Doris Kearns Goodwin below talking about her detailed book "Team Of Rivals" on which the movie is based.

Watch Doris Kearns Goodwin on PBS. See more from DIALOGUE.

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1 Comment

  • deap | December 13, 2011 10:35 AMReply

    can they please stop putting Joseph Gordon-Levitt in every movie

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