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PRESS Pass: Doris Kearns Goodwin

It only took three chapters of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s nascent and unfinished biography of the country’s sixteenth president to spark Steven Spielberg’s interest.

In this week’s PRESS Pass conversation, David sat down with the author and historian to talk about the backstory behind Spielberg’s Lincoln, out now in theaters.

“He found out that I was doing Lincoln, and so he had me shake hands that he’d have the first look,” she said of the initial encounter. So when she finished the first three chapters, she gave Spielberg a sample and the deal was done -- he bought the rights to the film. From then on, the Academy Award-winning director had the world’s pre-eminent Lincoln biographer at his side. “He would call me up and just … say … ‘What did Lincoln do today?’” Kearns Goodwin said recalling  speaking to Spielberg’s attention to detail during production.

And it wasn’t just Spielberg.  Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the lead as Honest Abe,  insisted on an extra year to fully prepare for the role.  In fact, once filming started he insisted on being called Mr. Lincoln on and off camera – and the crew obliged.

“They’d have pictures of Sally Field and Mary [Lincoln]” on the set, Kearns Goodwin said. “They’d have pictures of Thaddeus Stevens and Tommy Lee Jones.”

But for Lincoln, it was simply “Mr. Lincoln.”  No Day-Lewis.

President Obama, who is famously a fan of Team of Rivals, should follow Lincoln’s example of achieving compromise with a difficult Congress by using his presidential influence over the American people in his second term, Kearns Goodwin said.

“The one thing that President Obama said he’s learned from his first term, is that his communication skills were not as he wished them to be. … It’s not a question of his not having the words; I think he needs to connect himself more with the people in this second term.”

For much more on the behind-the-scenes of the new movie and how it translates into the modern-day political environment, watch the full PRESS Pass above.