“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.”
In her 2005 bestseller, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin takes a fresh look at the iconic president. She approached him, not as a bedeviled loner burdened by personal and national crises, but from a fresh and innovative angle: as a stellar communicator and networker. By looking at Lincoln through the lens of the alliances he forged, she opened up a window to a new way of viewing his achievements. Given the steady stream of books about Lincoln, her illuminating approach is an achievement in and of itself.
It was the creative outlook of Team of Rivals that led Steven Spielberg to undertake his latest film, “Lincoln.” Steven launched his ambitious project in 1999 — more than a decade ago; after meeting Doris and hearing about her theme, he bought the rights to her book, even though it was only half-finished. And even she is amazed by the miraculous way in which the actor Daniel Day-Lewis inhabits Lincoln: “Here I was imagining him for decades, and suddenly, he comes to life.” What a feeling that must have been!
The film, which is already winning rave reviews, zeroes in on four critical months in 1865, the last year of Lincoln’s presidency. The screenplay, written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, who’s won praise for bringing drama and artful pacing to the tale of Lincoln’s maneuvers to get the 13th Amendment passed.
Working with Kearns, Kushner, and Day-Lewis has been a labor of love for Spielberg, whose passion for the project kept him up at all hours during the filming: “I get too excited, so it’s very, very hard to sleep,” he observed. After completing the film, he said, “I feel like I know the man. I feel like I’ve lived with him. I’ve spent time with him. I feel like I’ve heard a story. Not the only story that should be told of his life — there is so much room to tell so many stories…”
Storytelling: what a gift to the world it is! And how marvelous when stories are shaped by creative artists with passion, like Doris, Steven, Tony, and Daniel. And how wonderful that a fabulous book led to a fabulous script and film. Let’s always remember that it all starts with ideas that become words on the page.