As we creep into the fall season, we’ve seen a little something — whether an image or a teaser trailer — from almost every major film that looks like it could be an Oscar contender. Until this morning, however, there was one glaring exception, and it’s one of the most anticipated of all: Steven Spielberg‘s “Lincoln,” which sees America’s most successful filmmaker take on his long-time dream project, a biopic of President Abraham Lincoln, with two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis as Honest Abe himself.
The film’s due in November, and until recently, all we had from the project were set photos of Day-Lewis in costume. But a first official image arrived this morning, courtesy of EW, and few would deny that Day-Lewis (who’s working with Spielberg for the first time), looks the part. And if we’re not mistaken, the pic seems to be of President Lincoln on his fateful theater trip, in the final moments of his life.
Adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s seminal “Team Of Rivals,” by “Munich” screenwriter Tony Kushner, the film focuses on Lincoln in the last four months of his life, as he aims to abolish slavery through the constitution, with his family (Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gulliver McGrath), Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn) and rival Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) all set to play major parts in the film, while the cast also includes Jackie Earle Haley, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, James Spader, John Hawkes, Bruce McGill, Adam Driver, Walton Goggins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tim Blake Nelson, David Oyelowo and Hal Holbrook.
Of course, it’s Day-Lewis who’ll be the center of the film, and Spielberg tells EW a little something about the actor’s approach. “Lincoln had a very, very complicated — and at the same time, extremely clear — inner life,” Spielberg says. “He thought things out. He talked things out. He argued both sides of every issue. And he was very careful in making any decision. As a matter of fact, his opponents and his enemies criticized him often for being impossibly slow to a decision.”
And contrary to the rumors that often follow the “There Will Be Blood” star’s methodology, the director says that his lead wasn’t pretending to be Lincoln for months at a time. “Daniel was always conscious of his contemporary surroundings,” Spielberg says. “Daniel never went into a fugue state. He did not channel Lincoln. All that stuff is just more about gossip than it is about technique.”
Now that the first image is out there, we’ll hopefully see a trailer before too long to indicate whether the film will be a stirring biopic, a detailed procedural (as has been suggested), or something between the two. But given the talent involved, and the nomination for the mostly unloved “War Horse” last year, few would bet against Spielberg and Day-Lewis being major contenders on Oscar night next year. “Lincoln” goes into limited release on November 9th before going wider the following week.