White House to Screen “Lincoln”

LincolnPresident Obama is scheduled to host a screening of “Lincoln” at the White House on Thursday, with cast and crew of the Oscar contender expected to attend.

The screening in the 42-seat White House Family Theater is closed press, but the venue is nevertheless considered one of the choice destinations for any studio release, elevating a movie’s importance and its impact on American culture. (Here’s a feature I did on the theater for Politico and Variety.)

The director of “Lincoln,” Steven Spielberg, has been a guest at the White House for state dinners and, in 2010, a screening of “The Pacific,” the HBO miniseries he produced with Tom Hanks. For that event, Spielberg even brought a small camcorder to record the arrival of Obama and other military brass. Spielberg also was a generous donor to Obama, co-hosting fundraisers and contributing more than $1 million to the pro-Obama SuperPAC Priorities USA Action.

The star of “Lincoln,” Daniel Day-Lewis, drew laughs last week when, a day after Obama’s re-election, he spoofed Clint Eastwood’s “empty chair” speech. Day-Lewis was at the BAFTA Britannia Awards and, to an empty chair he brought out on stage, said, “I have to say that I am extremely grateful and glad, taking time out of
his very busy schedule, that the recently re-elected president of this
country was able to make it here tonight, thank you.”

Spielberg withheld the release of Lincoln until after the election so that it wouldn’t get caught up in the partisanship of the campaign. The movie itself is unique in that it focuses on just a few months of Lincoln’s life, as he tries to get Congress to pass the 13th Amendment in the waning days of the war. The movie will perhaps leave viewers feeling better about today’s partisan gridlock. The acrimony in Washington at the time was fierce — and that is just the union side.

Expected to attend the screening are Spielberg, Day-Lewis, screenwriter Tony Kushner, producer Kathleen Kennedy as well as Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones.


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