Who else but Daniel Day-Lewis could embody Abraham Lincoln so well? Day-Lewis is known for his startling characterizations and method process, from “My Left Foot” and “The Last of the Mohicans” to “Gangs of New York” and “There Will Be Blood,” and we should expect no less from his portrayal of President Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s biopic. But, the director clarifies, “Daniel never went into a fugue state” for “Lincoln”; he was always aware of his contemporary surroundings, but was referred to as Mr. President on set. With very little to go by, Day-Lewis’s track record (four Oscar noms, two wins) makes it safe to assume his performance will be central in the Awards race.
EW speaks to the director, who explains that Lincoln “had a very, very complicated – and at the same time, extremely clear — inner life,” adding that 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.”
The script, adapted by Tony Kushner from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals,” focuses on the clash between Lincoln and the men in his cabinet over abolition and the end of the Civil War. Spielberg explains:
“Lincoln’s realization that the Emancipation Proclamation, the thing he is most known for, was simply a war powers act that would easily be struck down by any number of lawyers after the cessation of hostilities after the Civil War. He needed to abolish slavery by constitutional measure — and that’s where we start.”
Spielberg adds that “Our movie is really about a working leader who must make tough decisions and get things done in the face of overwhelming opposition.” Sounds familiar.
“Lincoln” arrives November 16. Here’s more on the cast.