Daniel Day-Lewis in ‘Lincoln’

Eye on the Oscars: The Actor - Best Actor Contender

Daniel Day-Lewis routinely disappears into his roles, but as Abraham Lincoln in “Lincoln,” director Steven Spielberg says the actor reaches a new level of absorption.

“(Daniel) understood Lincoln on a subatomic level,” says Spielberg via the film’s production notes. “I never asked Daniel about his process, I never questioned it.”

The two-time Oscar winner had naturally heard of Lincoln, but Day-Lewis dove into researching the man, reading his own writings and ones written about the president. Tony Kushner’s script also proved a valuable aid.

“Tony suggested the man through his intellect, his humor and his melancholy, both domestically and in office,” Day-Lewis states in the notes. “In Tony’s script you see a man in that strange paradox of being both public and private.”

In addition to creating a craggy, slightly stooped president, Day-Lewis managed to master Lincoln’s voice, which shifted into a higher tenor register when he was worked up.

“Daniel embodies Lincoln’s physicality in a remarkable way,” says producer Kathleen Kennedy. “He also dug deep to get to a place that makes you feel like he had access to who Lincoln was as a man.”

Day-Lewis also proved generous with his co-stars, flying in from Ireland to L.A. for a day to work with future Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field). Afterward, Day-Lewis and Spielberg were both on the call to tell her she’d won the part.

“He is a towering example of uncompromising excellence,” Field says. “He makes you free to fail, free to do your own process. That work atmosphere can’t be taught.”

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