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Spielberg: ‘Lincoln’ was a lesson in acting

Eye on the Oscars 2013: The Director - Steven Spielberg

In the same way that “Lincoln” daguerreotyped the capstone of the 16th president’s eventful life, the making of “Lincoln” culminated a decades-long interest in the subject by Steven Spielberg.

“It was an urge to find a story about Abraham Lincoln based on a lifelong fascination with him as a figure in history, a figure that is almost so famous that he’s become virtually invisible to most people,” Spielberg says.

“I had always been really compelled by not just his deeds but just his process,” adds the director, a passion that preceded his meeting “Lincoln” biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin in 1989. Ever the student despite his numerous accomplishments, Spielberg broke new personal ground in the making of “Lincoln.”

“Every movie, I learn something about filmmaking I never learned before,” Spielberg says. “This is a movie where I didn’t use really any technology except sound, lights and camera. I wasn’t staring at a monitor every day — I was watching the actors.

“In that sense, I felt I was closer to working on a performance-driven story than I would have been if I had spent my entire time, as I’ve done in the past, in a blackened tent facing three monitors. I had a real-time experience during ‘Lincoln’ — I was there with the cast shooting the picture. Technology has banished me sometimes as far as 100 yards away. That intimacy of being right next to the actors really changed my mind about how I want to make my next pictures.”

And as for what Spielberg discovered about Lincoln himself, after all those years of research?

“I learned that Lincoln knew that he was put on this earth to accomplish one great task, and he knew this even when he was a lawyer on the legal circuit,” Spielberg says. “He always knew.”

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