Director Steven Spielberg and actor Daniel Day-Lewis will show an Abraham Lincoln next month in their blockbuster film that features the president with a high-pitched voice and an obsession with the 13th Amendment.
There is already a huge Oscar buzz about the movie and Day-Lewis’ performance as the Civil War president. Several audiences had seen preliminary cuts of the movie.
Spielberg and Day-Lewis spoke on a live webcast recently to talk about the movie, and one of the hot topics was the actor’s spin on the 16th president.
Based on contemporary accounts of Lincoln’s voice, Day-Lewis uses a high-pitched tenor when he channels the president. He also shows a Lincoln who had a lively sense of humor who liked to pull pranks.
“He was a jokester,” said Day-Lewis. “It doesn’t take long to discover that about him.”
“There is a certain amount of research that is possible,” he said about the voice. “Usually I begin working I hear a voice and I them try to reproduce that sound.”
Spielberg said that Lincoln always had a higher-registered voice, according to many contemporary accounts. He also said Franklin Roosevelt had a voice in a higher register, and that public speakers used higher voices because they carried farther in public appearances.
But the serious tone of the movie is about Lincoln’s last fourth months in office, where he obsessed over creating a Constitutional amendment to end slavery.
“We needed to make a movie about a man named Lincoln,” Spielberg said. “We needed to show everybody what it was like to live and work on something extremely important. … He needed to make a monumental decision to finish the war and then attempt to abolish slavery through a constitutional amendment, the 13th amendment, or [what] he needed to do to get enough votes to get this amendment through the House before the war ended .”
Spielberg and Day-Lewis had discussed the Lincoln project nine years ago, but Day-Lewis said the concept of portraying Lincoln was overwhelming.
Day-Lewis was convinced when he saw a re-written script and read the Doris Kearns Goodwin book that the movie is based on.
“It appear inevitable to me,” he said. “I felt I had no choice but to understand this thing.”
Spielberg said a memorable scene in the film is where Lincoln explains in detail to his cabinet while he needed the 13th Amendment signed, since the Emancipation Proclamation was only a wartime measure.
He also said “Lincoln” was the most performance-based film of his career, with a cast that included Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Day-Lewis explained that role meant a lot to him and he wasn’t ready yet to let the character go.
“It will remain to the end of my days one of the great privileges of my life,” he said.
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