×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Long-gestating ‘Lincoln’ driven by performances

PGA Awards: David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Motion Pictures

Steven Spielberg has been nursing his idea for a movie about Abraham Lincoln for so long that it predated American historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Lincoln and his presidential Cabinet, “Team of Rivals.”

The book — acclaimed for its perceptive and fresh stance on Union strategies for ending the Civil War, with Lincoln managing and finessing a bevy of prickly and ambitious White House colleagues and allies — provided Spielberg with a specific narrative spine and focus, which also meant continuing changes to script versions written by John Logan and Paul Webb.

Tony Kushner, who had previously worked with Spielberg on “Munich,” entered the project and, with Goodwin’s book as a key though not exclusive basis for the film, wrote the final script version.

Producer Kathleen Kennedy has said “Lincoln” — set for December release — is a performance-driven film, which is why the cast is striking even by Spielberg’s standards. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Lincoln in the final four months of his life and presidency, engaged in passing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to solidify the Emancipation Proclamation.

Supporting Lewis are Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln; Tommy Lee Jones as congressional anti-slavery firebrand Thaddeus Stevens; Bruce McGill as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton; David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward; Jared Harris as the Union’s most successful commanding general, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant; John Hawkes as Col. Robert Latham; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, Lincoln’s eldest son.

The film’s dramatic focus, Spielberg says, is on the work in the Lincoln White House, the efforts by Lincoln to steer events, and the obstacles in his way.

A fascinating aspect of Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is how it may serve as a movie bookend of sorts to a great biopic by one of Spielberg’s key influences, John Ford, and his sublime 1939 “Young Mr. Lincoln,” starring a quietly stunning Henry Fonda. Ford’s depiction of Lincoln is one of a potentially great mind in formation, still a country lawyer and far from the visionary president. Spielberg’s Lincoln, having served a war-filled first term and early on into his second, is managing the war on the battlefront (reportedly unseen in the movie) and the fierce one in Washington, centered on finally abolishing slavery once and for all.

PGA AWARDS
Spielberg: Empire of the stunner | Long-gestating ‘Lincoln’ driven by performances | Guild draws line on producer credit

More Scene

  • CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Robert

    Robert Pattinson Helps HFPA Donate $500,000 to Refugee Organization at Cannes Event

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association proved in Cannes Sunday night that the Golden Globes aren’t the only festive bash it can pull off each year. At the glamorous Nikki Beach party held in association with Participant Media, the HFPA donated $500,000 to international aid organization Help Refugees. Co-hosts Robert Pattinson and Helen Mirren along with Quentin [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Alexis Martin Woodall, Ryan

    Peabody Winners Talk Empowered Women and Social Justice Challenges on Red Carpet

    The theme on the red carpet at the 78th annual Peabody Awards? Empowering women. On Saturday, Peabody winners gathered at Cipriani Wall Street, and one of the hot topics on everyone’s mind was the wave of female empowerment spreading across the industry. From Peabody’s Career Achievement Award recipient Rita Moreno to shows like ‘Killing Eve’ [...]

  • CAP D'ANTIBES, FRANCE - MAY 18:

    Cannes: Robert Pattinson, Shailene Woodley Attend Starry Vanity Fair Party

    It’s true what they say about Batman being a loner. On Saturday night, Robert Pattinson made his first public appearance since being cast as the new Dark Knight at this year’s Vanity Fair Party at the Cannes Film Festival. But while all the other A-list guests mingled and worked the crowd at the restaurant of [...]

  • Taron Egerton Cannes Film Festival 2019

    Taron Egerton Addresses ‘Rocketman’ Comparisons to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Takes Subtle Jab at Bryan Singer

    Taron Egerton says that he’s flattered by comparisons between his Elton John musical “Rocketman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” last year’s smash hit about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. “I’m proud that we’re mentioned in the same breath,” says Egerton, who plays John in the upcoming “Rocketman,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to a five-minute standing [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content