Actor Daniel Day-Lewis portrays United States president
Abraham Lincoln in a scene from director Steven Spielberg's
new film 'Lincoln'. REUTERS/David James/DreamWorks Pictures
and Twentieth Century Fox
Daniel Day-Lewis had little more than a statue and a few
famous speeches to go on when he first agreed to play President
Abraham Lincoln on screen.
By the time production began on Steven Spielberg's movie
"Lincoln", the British-Irish actor was so immersed in the
character he was even texting co-stars as America's Civil War
"I knew nothing about him," Day-Lewis, 55, told reporters
ahead of the November 9 release of "Lincoln".
"I had everything to learn and apart from a few images, a
statue ... a few lines from the first inaugural, a few from
the Gettysburg address, that would be my entire knowledge of
that man's life," he added.
The double Oscar winner admitted he was hesitant in taking on
the role of Lincoln, saying he did not want to "be
responsible for irrevocably staining the reputation of the
greatest president this country's ever known."
Despite his doubts, Day-Lewis is already being hailed as a
certain Oscar nominee for his work on the movie, which could
add to his best actor Oscar haul for his greedy
turn-of-the-century oil baron in "There Will be Blood" (2007)
and his role as a quadriplegic writer in the 1989 film "My
Entertainment website Cinema Blend called his performance
"faultless and surprisingly restrained," while Indiewire
writes that "the motivating force of 'Lincoln' belongs to its
leading man, whose screen presence is a wonder to behold even
when he says nothing".
British born Day-Lewis is known for exhaustive preparation
and for throwing himself completely in his roles, even when
the cameras are not rolling.
"Lincoln" was no exception.
Sally Field, who plays Mary Todd Lincoln, recalled how the
man who would play her on-screen husband had texted her
"totally in character" over a seven-month period prior to
shooting the movie.
"(It) was difficult because you had to figure out how to say
what you wanted to say within the vernacular of the time,"
Field told reporters.
The film centres around the last few months of Lincoln's
life. The Civil War is still raging and the president is
fighting factions within his own cabinet, as well as
political factions in Congress, to pass the Thirteenth
Amendment to the US Constitution that abolished slavery.
While efforts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment in late 1864
and early 1865 take centre stage in the film, it also delves
into Lincoln's life at home with his wife and sons Robert
(Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Tad (Gulliver McGrath).
Spielberg said the film was never intended to be a biography
"We needed to focus it in on a working president and a father
and a husband," Spielberg explained.
"You couldn't do that if it was the greatest hits of Abraham
Lincoln. We would have been dilettantes as filmmakers and as
actors. We would have been hitting all the high points and
just giving you the headlines and not giving you any sense of
the depth of this character, this man," he added.
Gordon-Levitt said he didn't get to know Day-Lewis until
after production wrapped, despite the numerous scenes they
"I never met Daniel in person," he said. "I only ever met the
president, only ever heard the president's voice. I called
him sir, he called me Robert."
After the last day of shooting, the cast went out in the
evening to celebrate "and that was the first time I
personally met Daniel," said Gordon-Levitt.
"He showed up in jeans and a T-shirt and had a completely
different voice and posture," said the actor. "He was like
one of my friends -- you know this kind of cool, artist guy,
having a Guinness and just laughing and having a great time."