Daniel Day-Lewis Wrote Spielberg This Letter Rejecting 'Lincoln'

January 8, 2013


Back in the days before Daniel Day-Lewis was texting as Lincoln, putting on dad jeans as Lincoln, he was not so sure he wanted to be Lincoln at all. As Spielberg explained at the New York Film Critics Circle awards ceremony on Monday, his first meeting with Day-Lewis did not end with the acceptance scene we all assumed: the actor holding his dinner's garnish to his chin and slipping into a shrill voice to shout, "Let's shoot this movie NOW, NOW, NOW!" Apparently it first took some convincing and re-writes before Day-Lewis signed, and he initially wrote the director a kind letter explaining why he was turning down a gimme Oscar nod and fucking Steven Spielberg. Here is that letter, as recited by fucking Steven Spielberg:

Dear Steven,

It was a real pleasure just so sit and talk with you. I listened very carefully to what you had to say about this compelling history, and I've since read the script and found it in all the detail in which it describe these monumental events and in the compassionate portraits of all the principal characters, both powerful and moving. I can't account for how at any given moment I feel the need to explore life as opposed to another, but I do know that I can only do this work if I feel almost as if there is no choice; that a subject coincides inexplicably with a very personal need and a very specific moment in time. In this case, as fascinated as I was by Abe, it was the fascination of a grateful spectator who longed to see a story told, rather than that of a participant. That's how I feel now in spite of myself, and though I can't be sure that this won't change, I couldn't dream of encouraging you to keep it open on a mere possibility. I do hope this makes sense Steven, I'm glad you're making the film, I wish you the strength for it, and I send both my very best wishes and my sincere gratitude to you for having considered me.

Considering that Liam Neeson had long been attached to the project over its earlier development, perhaps we'll one day also see the letter he wrote Spielberg. There one where he's like, "Oh, you're going with My Life foot now? That's cool... I've been pretty busy murdering dudes and wolves anyway."


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