Steven Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tony Kushner on Making 'Lincoln' (Video)

Not long ago, I moderated an extensive Q&A following a screening of Lincoln with the film's director Steven Spielberg, screenwriter Tony Kushner, and actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, James Spader and Lee Pace. The Academy nominated Lincoln for best picture, Spielberg for best director, Day-Lewis for best actor, Field for best supporting actress and Kushner for best adapted screenplay. I urge you to check out the video of our conversation above.

Among the topics we covered...

  • Spielberg's 1999 conversation with Team of Rivals author Doris Kearns Goodwin that sparked his desire to make a film about America's 16th president ("Of all the presidents we studied in elementary and high school, this particular person stood out more than anyone else. I think it was because he was really awkward and looked like an outsider, looked like somebody I would be friends with.");
  • Day-Lewis, a Brit, on being asked to play the iconic American ("I was both amazed and delighted and absolutely bewildered, in equal measure, that Steven would even consider me for such a thing");
  • Kushner on his decision to focus his script on the last four months of Lincoln's life ("You could take any week of the four years that he spent in the White House and make a 10-part miniseries, but I finally decided to do the last four months and wrote a screenplay that was 500 pages long; this was the first quarter of that");
  • Day-Lewis' year of preparing for the film ("I'm a very slow reader and I had a lot of reading that I needed to do and a lot of reading that I wished to do ... I like to do things slowly, I like to grow into an understanding of things");
  • Spielberg on the benefit for him of the year-long wait ("That year turned out to be a blessing. It gave Tony and I a lot more time to delve more vertically into Lincoln and the minutiae, the details, which I think we celebrate. Of all the movies that I've made, I think there's more details that I care about in this film than anything else I've ever done ... The other thing was it gave me time to cast 145 speaking parts -- that's a lot of parts. That's more roles than I've ever had in any single movie until now");
  • Field on her fight to win the role of Mrs. Lincoln ("I had been watching for Mary forever. I felt always in my heart, in my actress, that certain roles would be right for me. Mary was one of them")
  • Pace on getting to play a part in a Spielberg film ("It was the call of a lifetime for me to get invited to the set ...  job of a lifetime. I learned so much");
  • Spader on his experience making the film ("I showed up at the last minute and just had more fun making this film than any in memory, with the most delightful people ... I just wished it hadn't ended");
  • Spielberg on the way he dressed and behaved during the four-month shoot ("I set a tone, in a way, by deciding to call everybody by their character names, not by their surnames ... I just simply came dressed in a nice suit every day");
  • Field on texting with Day-Lewis in-character ("He was in Ireland; I was in Los Angeles. There was no way for us to begin to form any kind of relationship ... The only way we had to do that -- in lieu of writing letters, which is how they communicated with each other when they were not together ... was to text. It made total sense.")