In February 2013, numerous news sources reported that this movie led to the final, official 50-state ratification of the 13th Amendment, nearly 150 years after it was ratified by three-fourths of the US states. In November 2012, Dr Ranjan Batra, a (non-historian) academic at the University of Mississippi, saw the movie Lincoln. He did an Internet search to find out more about the 13th Amendment, and, along with his colleague Ken Sullivan, discovered that although Mississippi voted to ratify the amendment in 1995, a clerical oversight caused that vote to remain unacknowledged officially: the Mississippi Secretary of State never sent the vote's result to the US Office of the Federal Register. Sullivan also went to see the film, and then the two men urged the office of the Mississippi Secretary of State to file that paperwork, which they did on January 30, 2013; on February 7, 2013, the director of the Federal Register responded that the resolution had been received and that the State of Mississippi had finally ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The great-grandfather of Michael Stanton Kennedy was a newspaperman from the town where his character, Hiram Price, lived. When filming the scene where the 13th Amendment passes, Kennedy started to cry and couldn't explain why until later, when he told Steven Spielberg "We're in this room recreating one of the most important moments in American history... and up there [in the balcony] with the press sat my great-grandfather."
Steven Spielberg spent 12 years researching the film. He recreated Abraham Lincoln's Executive Mansion office precisely, with the same wallpaper and books Lincoln used. The ticking of Lincoln's watch in the film is the sound of Lincoln's actual pocket watch. Lincoln's watch is housed in the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort, Kentucky (not the Lincoln Presidential Library.) It is the watch he carried the day of his assassination.
During the three and a half months of filming, Steven Spielberg addressed his actors in character: he called Daniel Day-Lewis "Mr. President," and Sally Field "Mrs. Lincoln," or "Molly." Additionally, he wore a suit every day on set: "I think I wanted to get into the role, more than anything else, of being part of that experience - because we were recreating a piece of history. And so I didn't want to look like the schlubby, baseball cap wearing 21st century guy; I wanted to be like the cast."
Steven Spielberg has explained that during the movie's climactic scene in which the names of House of Representative members are being called to vote on the 13th Amendment, the names of many of the men who voted 'No' --for various reasons--were actually changed in the film so as not to embarrass the living descendants of these men whose reputations might have been stained by their negative vote-casting.
Asa-Luke Twocrow, who plays Lieutenant Colonel Ely Parker was a member of the film's rigging crew. His resemblance to the Seneca sachem was so uncanny, he was approached by the casting department to play the role. He would change into his costume as Grant's secretary, shoot the scene, and then change back into his crew gear and return to work as a rigger.
Daniel Day-Lewis originally turned down the role of Abraham Lincoln, sending Steven Spielberg this letter: "Dear Steven. It was a real pleasure just to 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 of which it describes these monumental events and in the compassionate portraits of all the principle characters - both powerful and moving. I can't account for how at any given moment I feel the need to explore one life as opposed to another. But I do know that I can only do this work if I feel almost as if there's 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 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. Daniel."
The ticking heard from Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch as he sits at his desk and plays with it is the actual ticking sound from the watch he carried in his pocket. An audio engineer went to the museum in Kentucky where the watch is kept to get sound bites from it.
Sally Field was so determined to play Mary Todd Lincoln, she begged Steven Spielberg for the chance to screen test alongside Daniel Day-Lewis. Spielberg believed she was too old to play the part, but Field was adamant. She recalled, "I'm 10 years older than Daniel and 20 years older than Abraham Lincoln's wife was and Steven told me he didn't see me in the role. But I knew I was right for this part and begged him to let me audition for it. He was kind enough to do that and Daniel is such a sweetheart that he flew over from his home in Ireland to screen test with me. I'll love him forever for that."
Steven Spielberg was already developing this film when he met with Doris Kearns Goodwin and confided in her that he wanted to make a film about Abraham Lincoln. She told him that she had just finished her book Team of Rivals. Spielberg obtained a copy and read it, and immediately decided to use it as the basis for the film.
Towards the end of the film, Thaddeus Stevens and his black housekeeper Lydia Hamilton Smith are portrayed as romantic partners. Although there is no officially documented evidence in real life that the two had anything more than an employer/employee relationship, the two were the object of much speculation and rumor during and after their many decades of cohabitation. Some unusual aspects of their living arrangements that contributed to the contemporary rumor that they were romantically involved included the facts that she moved from separate servants' quarters behind the house into Stevens's main house; she frequently served as the hostess for events held at his house; and several of his family members referred to her in terms usually reserved for spouses in their correspondence. Stevens and Smith were also depicted as lovers in the 1915 silent film The Birth of a Nation (1915), although contrary to this film's reasons for inclusion of a romantic relationship between them, that movie's director, D.W. Griffith, used their relationship as racist propaganda and as supposed "proof" of the North's degeneracy.
Neither of Abraham Lincoln's two vice presidents, Hannibal Hamlin or Andrew Johnson, are depicted in the film, although one of the unidentified cameos in the "4 March 1865" shot might be Johnson. However, the House Speaker, Schuyler Colfax, who presides over the 13th Amendment vote, later became vice president for Ulysses Grant's first term.
Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary have one of their famous fights, in which he threatens to have her committed to a mad house. In the case of this film, the issue they fight over is their son Robert's enlistment in the army. It would be Robert Lincoln who ultimately did commit his mother to an insane asylum, tragically leading to their permanent estrangement.
Liam Neeson, who was attached to play Abraham Lincoln since the project began development, decided to drop out. According to Neeson, he felt he was too old to play the part after waiting so many years for the project to get the go-ahead. Incidentally Daniel Day-Lewis is only five years Neeson's junior, though still closest in age to Lincoln, who was 55 and 56 years of age at the time portrayed in the film.
Describing his experience playing Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis said, "I never, ever felt that depth of love for another human being that I never met. And that's, I think, probably the effect that Lincoln has on most people that take the time to discover him... I wish he had stayed [with me] forever."
According to Steven Spielberg, it was actor James Spader's idea to have his character seen as indulging in hand-carving a wooden duck, a preoccupation that Spader's personal research revealed to be one of the major hobbies of Civil War-era America.
After 10 years of development, director Steven Spielberg finally decided he would only "make 'Lincoln' if Daniel Day-Lewis decided to play him, and I would not make 'Lincoln' had Daniel decided not to play him."
While giving a fiery speech against Abraham Lincoln, Fernando Wood calls him "King Abraham Africanus The First." This epithet is based on a real pamphlet from 1864 titled "Abraham Africanus I: his secret life, revealed under the mesmeric influence; mysteries of the White House." This pamphlet, printed by the "Copperheads," a group of pro-Confederate Democrats within the Union, to which Wood belonged, claimed that Lincoln had signed a contract with Satan to enable him to seize the US presidency for life and to "subvert the liberties of the American people and debauch their civic aspirations; to impose upon them in every imaginable form of low cunning, and cheat them with words of double meaning and with false promises, until by these, and kindred means, that end is accomplished, and his dynasty firmly established."
Although some viewers were surprised by the usage of the word "fuck" in the movie, the Oxford English Dictionary dates the word back to (at least) the early 1500s, around 350 years before the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln's presidency. In the movie, the word is used only twice, both times by the vulgar and rough Bilbo character as a way of demonstrating his uncouthness. Viewers who thought they also heard Lincoln using the term to describe "Tammany Hall hucksters" during a monologue actually misheard the then-common word "pettifogging."
The baton used by the conductor (Mark Ian Holt) in the Faust Opera scene with Abraham Lincoln and Mrs. Lincoln was owned by William Kushner (screenwriter Tony Kushner 's father), who was a clarinetist, and for 40 years, the conductor of the Lake Charles (Louisiana) Symphony Orchestra. It is an authentic 19th century baton, ebony with an ivory handle, that Tony asked to be used to honor his dad, who died in March 2012.
In several scenes in the Cabinet Room, a tube can be seen hanging between the ceiling and the table. This is a rubber hose carrying natural gas (methane) from the overhead gas lighting system to the table lamp. The hose occasionally moves slightly, seemingly on its own, due to fluctuations in the pressure of the natural gas system.
After Liam Neeson dropped out, Steven Spielberg returned to his original choice for the titular role of Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis. Day-Lewis declined because he didn't know if he could play such an iconic role. It was Leonardo DiCaprio who convinced him to take the role after Spielberg told him that Day-Lewis declined. It is unknown how DiCaprio convinced Day-Lewis to take the role.
In this movie, Lincoln occasionally refers to his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, as "Molly." This was a real-life term of endearment that Abraham Lincoln sometimes called her; it was a family nickname from her childhood.
According to producer Kathleen Kennedy, the film commission in Richmond (VA) was able to accommodate the production's pursuit of historical authenticity by granting extensive access to government buildings while they were out of session.
Harrison Ford was rumored to appear in the film in a role as V.P. Andrew Johnson at one point during the development of the film but the rumor has since become completely unsubstantiated after all the delays & turnarounds on the film's development over the years. Ultimately, there is no mention or sign of Johnson's character in the final version of the film, with the possible exception of the inauguration scene.
Once Daniel Day-Lewis decided on the voice that he would use to portray Lincoln, he sent an audiotape of it to Director Steven Spielberg in a box with a skull & crossbones on it so no one but he would hear it first.
Steven Spielberg told a preview audience in Manhattan that screenwriter Tony Kushner spent about six years working on the movie. Originally it was conceived of as a biography film exploring Abraham Lincoln's entire life story, but eventually was whittled down to the events surrounding the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in the U.S. detailed in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals".