Lincoln has been a passion project for Steven Spielberg since he locked down the screen rights to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s non-fiction best-seller “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” (even before Goodwin had finished researching her book). Liam Neeson spent several years attached to reunite with his Schindler’s List director on the project, but took a pass in 2010 – setting the stage for Daniel Day-Lewis to don Honest Abe’s hat, a few months later.
The first official Lincoln photo reveals the two-time Oscar-winner as the greying, bearded, 16th U.S. president, illuminated by the sort of professional lighting and framing absent in amateur snapshots of Lewis that leaked out last year (Lewis’ resemblance to Abe remains uncanny, if not enhanced).
Spielberg spoke with EW (which has the exclusive on the Lincoln image) about the famous politician:
“Lincoln had a very, very complicated – and at the same time, extremely clear — inner life. 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.”
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Previous interviews with Spielberg indicate Lincoln focuses on a small portion of Goodwin’s book, narrowing its focus down to the final four months of Abe’s life (unlike this summer’s fantasy/history mashup, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). Spielberg elaborated on that idea, saying:
“Our movie is really about a working leader who must make tough decisions and get things done in the face of overwhelming opposition… [We begin with] 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.”
Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner handled scripting duties on Lincoln, reuniting him with Spielberg after their previous historical drama collaboration on Munich. Kushner’s capacity for crafting eloquent dialogue should befit the conversation-heavy proceedings in Lincoln; his screenplay also shouldn’t suffer from the same problems as other biographies more sprawling in scope, such as Clint Eastwood’s (clunky) J. Edgar.
Lincoln snagged a spot on our Top 20 Anticipated Movies of 2012 and with good reason. Besides Lewis, the cast includes such people as Oscar-winners Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones, as well as Joseph-Gordon Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises), David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck.), John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen), Jared Harris (Mad Men), Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies), Walton Goggins (Justified), James Spader (Boston Legal), and Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man).
Check out the full EW article for additional information, such as insight from Spielberg about Lewis’ “method” approach to capturing the essence of Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln begins a limited U.S. theatrical release on November 9th, 2012 (it opens wider on the 16th).