Spielberg's Lincoln takes shape

Hat tip to Ireland's Independent newspaper which tallies the years in which Lincoln has been in development - seven. Movies are ephemeral, but this has been ridiculous. It seems to be shooting now (January), so a few more lines may be in order.

Search this blog and I'm sure there are posts for every one of those years. Let's review some memes.

Recall first that Spielberg bought the rights to Lincoln, Master of Men, sight unseen. This was a book still being written by the notorious Doris Kearns Goodwin. After the book was released as Team of Rivals (Ireland's Independent has a comical misnomer for it, "Team of Equals"), Spielberg seemed to back away from his commitment to Goodwin by hiring the gay celebrity / Broadway scriptwriter Tony Kushner to pen the screenplay. Stories about Kushner's work on Lincoln focused on the massive amount of original research he was doing without mentioning Goodwin or his use of her book.

The current issue of Variety gives us more information than we had before. It says the "script versions [of Goodwin's book] written by John Logan and Paul Webb" were written into a "final script version" by Kushner who used "Goodwin's book as a key though not exclusive basis for the film." You probably speak enough Hollywoodese to be able to translate that.

Back in September, Spielberg issued a useless, spurious, and misleading statement that "The movie will be purposely coming out after next year's election. I didn't want it to become political fodder." In other words, a film that had not started shooting yet, that had no domestic or foreign distribution deals, would not be released in less than 12 months out of concern for political ramifications.

Yea, verily, to quote the Bible, or Lincoln, or both.

Heritage tourism, meanwhile, has gotten another shot of the heroin it craves. Virginia projects untold masses of visitors inspired somehow to visit the state neighboring the actual setting of the movie. Quoth the state: "We will have the power of Disney’s marketing behind us." The power = hidden Spielberg reference! The article reporting this says "The premiere of a legendary director’s movie on one of the era’s key figures is more than icing on the cake; it’s every tourism director’s dream." If true, wouldn't it be the DC tourism director's dream? How do we work in reference to the dark side here?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will precede Spielberg's Lincoln at the box office. Won't that generate Virginia tourism? It takes care of the dark side reference, anyway.

Flippancy aside, Tommy Lee Jones is set to play Sen. Thad Stevens who appears to be a bete noir to Lincoln. (I don't think Stevens figured much in Goodwin's book, but that's what script doctors get paid the big bucks for.) We can extrapolate Hollywood's logic in making Stevens central to Lincoln's story as the script's need for a character arc. We will see Lincoln's initial antagonism to Stevens, then his acceptance of Stevens, then his growth and transformation into a better Stevens. That will be the big payoff of the movie. Chase, Stanton, Seward, et al will be a team of extras.

I'd like to close with a favorite Thaddeus Stevens quote. If this comes out of a movie theatre speaker, I'll be surprised.
Though the President is Commander-in-Chief, Congress is his commander; and, God willing, he shall obey. He and his minions shall learn that this is not a Government of kings and satraps, but a Government of the people, and that Congress is the people.
Oddly enough, there is a Stevens Society. Perhaps it will get the boost intended for Virginia tourism.

(Photo: Actor Daniel Day Lewis impersonates a Russian muzhik.)