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Daniel Day-Lewis is the Embodiment of 'Lincoln'; Spielberg Talks Character with EW

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood August 7, 2012 at 1:30PM

Who else but Daniel Day-Lewis could embody Abraham Lincoln so well? Day-Lewis is known for his startling characterizations and method process, from "My Left Foot" and "The Last of the Mohicans" to "Gangs of New York" and "There Will Be Blood," and we should expect no less from his portrayal of President Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's biopic. But, the director clarifies, “Daniel never went into a fugue state" for "Lincoln"; he was always aware of his contemporary surroundings, but was referred to as Mr. President on set. With very little to go by, Day-Lewis's track record (four Oscar noms, two wins) makes it safe to assume his performance will be central in the Awards race.
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Lincoln, EW

Who else but Daniel Day-Lewis could embody Abraham Lincoln so well? Day-Lewis is known for his startling characterizations and method process, from "My Left Foot" and "The Last of the Mohicans" to "Gangs of New York" and "There Will Be Blood," and we should expect no less from his portrayal of President Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's biopic. But, the director clarifies, “Daniel never went into a fugue state" for "Lincoln"; he was always aware of his contemporary surroundings, but was referred to as Mr. President on set. With very little to go by, Day-Lewis's track record (four Oscar noms, two wins) makes it safe to assume his performance will be central in the Awards race.

EW speaks to the director, who explains that Lincoln "had a very, very complicated – and at the same time, extremely clear — inner life,” adding that 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.”

The script, adapted by Tony Kushner from Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals," focuses on the clash between Lincoln and the men in his cabinet over abolition and the end of the Civil War. Spielberg explains:

“Lincoln’s realization that the Emancipation Proclamation, the thing he is most known for, was simply a war powers act that would easily be struck down by any number of lawyers after the cessation of hostilities after the Civil War. He needed to abolish slavery by constitutional measure — and that’s where we start.”

Spielberg adds that “Our movie is really about a working leader who must make tough decisions and get things done in the face of overwhelming opposition." Sounds familiar.

"Lincoln" arrives November 16. Here's more on the cast.

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


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.