Film editor Michael Kahn has done many action films with director Steven Spielberg, but “Lincoln” meant wrestling with a meaty script and juggling a large ensemble cast so the audience wouldn’t lose track of who is who.
Tony Kushner’s screenplay was essential to guiding that balancing act.
“Steven and I have done a lot of action films, but in this case there was a lot of dialogue,” Kahn says. “That was the big difference. The challenge was not to allow the cuts of people to be too short or too abortive. I wanted to stay with each person when they had something important to say.”
The climactic scene when Congress votes on the 13th Amendment — which features dozens of actors — was one of Kahn’s trickiest to cut, in part because he needed all of the footage before he could begin picking which takes to use. That patience was key, he says, and once he had everything, “it all worked.”
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