CinemaCon: Frank Marshall Named International Filmmaker of the Decade

2016
Frank Marshall is honored at CinemaCon, the annual exhibition industry convention and trade show in Las Vegas, as “International Filmmaker of the Decade“.

In 1981, Marshall and
Kathleen Kennedy
co-founded Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg, producing many successful films such as Gremlins (1984), Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) and the Back to the Future trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990).

As a producer, Marshall has received five Oscar nominations for Best Picture for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Seabiscuit (2003), The Sixth Sense (1999), The Color Purple (1985), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

His feature film directing debut was the thriller Arachnophobia (1990).

After ten years at Amblin, Marshall and Kennedy formed their own production company, the Kennedy/Marshall Company.
Marshall
took over as sole principal, when
Kennedy became president of Lucasfilm in 2012.

He also produced the record-breaking film Jurassic World (2015) and Steven Spielberg’s The BFG (2016).

CinemaCon: Frank Marshall Named International Filmmaker of the Decade

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Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford Reuniting for Fifth ‘Indiana Jones’

2019
Anything Goes: Indiana Jones Returns…

On March 15, 2016, Walt Disney Studios announce a 5th Indiana Jones film to be directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Harrison Ford, set to premiere July 19, 2019.

Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will produce the as-yet untitled project (with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg serving as Executive Producers). 

Ford tells the BBC he took the role under two conditions:

“I’ve always thought there was an opportunity to do another. But I didn’t want to do it without Steven [Spielberg]. And I didn’t want to do it without a really good script. And happily we’re working on both. Steven is developing a script now that I think we’re going to be very happy with.”

Other actors have not yet been cast. Regular crew members include:

Screenplay
David Koepp

Original Music
John Williams 

Cinematography
Janusz Kaminski

Film Editing
Michael Kahn 

Special Effects
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)

More about Indiana Jones…

Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford Reuniting for Fifth ‘Indiana Jones’

2016
Amblin Partners
Executive Kristie Macosko Krieger is the new “Kathleen Kennedy” in Steven Spielberg’s inner circle of creative collaborators.

Krieger served
as head of worldwide publicity at the USC Shoah Foundation, before she joined DreamWorks in 1997, starting a stellar career.

Back in 2012, when George Lucas pondered about making Kathleen Kennedy co-chair of Lucasfilm he felt obliged to first call Spielberg. “He wasn’t technically her boss—it was just
about friendship.
It was kind of like, ‘Oh, by the way,
Steven, I’m going to marry your wife.’ ”

After Disney acquired the company and Kennedy became president of Lucasfilm in 2012, there was no denying: Spielberg had to find a replacement for his trusted long-time producer and co-founder of Amblin Entertainment. The Disney production The BFG (2016) has probably been the last Spielberg-directed film, with Kennedy attached as producer – unless Spielberg is hired by her to direct Indiana Jones 5 for Disney.

Spielberg must have seen it coming: Fifteen years ago, he made Kristie Macosko Krieger his assistant on A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (2001). For Catch Me If You Can (2002), she became Spielberg’s associate and continued to prove her skills and trustworthiness on projects such as The Terminal (2004), War of the Worlds (2005), and Munich (2005).

Meanwhile, Kathleen Kennedy showed extraordinary commitment to mentoring
the next generation of female executives. Macosko Krieger must have been among them. Asked about Kathleen Kennedy, she says:

“If I’m stuck in a Turkish prison, she is my first phone call.”

When preparing Lincoln (2012), Spielberg made Macosko Krieger his co-producer, before she was assigned as producer of Bridge of Spies (2015) and executive producer of The BFG (2016).

She is currently producing Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018) and a film adaptation of the New York Times best-seller “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek” written by Maya Van Wagenen.

Photo:

© 2016 Amblin Partners

2016

Steven Spielberg’s The BFG is a 3-D fantasy adventure film adapted from Roald Dahl‘s classic children’s book, The BFG. It is co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media.

Watch the trailer

The screenplay is written by Melissa Mathison who also penned the script for E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Fittingly, the tagline and typography of The BFG’s poster evoke Spielberg’s masterpiece E.T.

This is the final film written by Melissa Mathison before her death in 2015. It is dedicated to her as a tribute. Spielberg about his collaboration with Mathison:

“I don’t miss Melissa yet because I haven’t had the chance to mourn her, because she is still with me. I’m not saying that in a supernatural way, because Melissa is alive in every single frame of The BFG. She has been with me all through this process and she is as tangible as if she were sitting next to me. What I’m not looking forward to is when I finish with The BFG and I have to face the fact that Melissa is no longer with me.”

“Melissa could do something most of us could not. She observed people without judging them. The only other people I can think of who observe with curiosity and without judgment are children. And I think that’s why she understood them and wrote them better than anyone else.”

The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. In contrast, giants like Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater are twice as big and at least twice as scary. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie, a 10-year-old orphan girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious giant who has brought her to his cave, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming. Together, they set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.

Spielberg had read Roald Dahl’s book to his then-young children. He recalls:

“They loved the privacy and secrecy of his own special giant-speak. And they also loved that this little 8-year-old girl can tell a 26-foot-tall giant what to do.”

The BFG is the first Disney-branded film directed by Spielberg and the first with a female lead since The Color Purple (1985). Spielberg explains why the story appealed to him:

“It’s a story about friendship, it’s a story about loyalty and protecting your friends and it’s a story that shows that even a little girl can help a big giant solve his biggest problems.”

The film stars Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall and Bill Hader.  

The BFG marks Spielberg’s second collaboration with Mark Rylance who won an Academy Award for Bridge of Spies. (2015). Rylance plays the title role via motion-capture – a process of recording movement and mimics of actors that Spielberg previously applied in his film The Adventure of Tintin (2011). 

Spielberg tries to convince Gene Wilder to do a cameo in the film, but Wilder declines. He appeared as the title character of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) which is based on another story written by Roald Dahl. 

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Principal photography takes place between 23 March 2015 to 16 June 2015, with filming locations in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada as well as in Scotland and England

Development for the film project goes back as far as 1991 when producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy set up a deal with Paramount Pictures. Robin Swicord and Nicholas Kazan write a screenplay in 1998 (revised by Gwyn Lurie

in 2001), with Robin Williams in mind for the title role. 

In September 2011, DreamWorks picks up the film rights to the book, with Kennedy and Marshall set to produce, and Melissa Mathison as screenwriter. Originally, John Madden is supposed to direct but in April 2014, Steven Spielberg takes the helm (Madden remains attached as executive producer). After Walden Media agrees to co-finance and co-produce the film, Walt Disney Studios joins The BFG as a co-producer and co-financier.

Regular Spielberg collaborators include: Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski, Editor Michael Kahn, Composer John Williams, Production designer Rick Carter, and Costume designer Joanna Johnston. Visual effects are created by Weta Digital

The BFG is produced by Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Sam Mercer with Kathleen Kennedy, John Madden, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Michael Siegel, Frank Smith and Naia Cucukov serving as executive producers. 

Roald Dahl’s books, which also include “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Matilda,” are currently available in 58 languages and have sold over 200 million copies worldwide

Originally created as a bedtime story, “The BFG” was Dahl’s own favorite of all his stories and is made into a live action film for the first time, marking Dahl’s 100th birthday.

Spielberg notes: 

“It was very important for us to be loyal to the language, and the great writer Melissa Mathison, who also wrote E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, wrote The BFG.”


Roald Dahl created the fantasy language Gobblefunk, which is spoken by the BFG. Here is a glossary of some of his words:

Cannybully … … … . . Cannibal

Chatbags … … … … . Chatterbox

Chidlers… … … … . . Children

Crickety Crackety … … Sound of cracking bones

Delumptious… … … . Delicious

Despunge … … … … Deplore

Earbursting … … … . . Loud

Figglers … … … … . . Fingers

Frobscottle … … … . . Carbonated soft drink where bubbles float downwards rather than upwards

Frumpkin Fry … … … Pumpkin Pie

Giggler  … … … … . . Little Girls

Glummy  … … … …
. Yummy

Glumptious… … … . .
Scrumptious 

Golden Phizzwizard … . A
wonderful dream

Hippodumplings… … . Hippopotamus

Hipswitch … …
… … Hence/Straightaway

Human Beans … … … Human Beings

Humbug  … … … … . Humble

Humplehammers … … Something that is very big

Jabbeling… … … … . Babbling

Jiggyraffes… … … … Giraffes

Majester … … … … . Majesty

Murderful … … … … Murderous

Phizzwizards … … … . Happy dreams

Rummytot… … … … Nonsense

Rumpledumpus . .
… . . Rumpus

Scrumdiddlyumptious . . Scrumptious

Scuddling … … . .
… . Scurrying

Skumping … … … … Worried

Sloshfunking . .
… … . . Like godforsaken

Snozzcumber … … … A
gruesome vegetable
only found in Giant Country

  

Splitzwiggled  … … … Caught

Swalloped … … … … Swallowed

Swigpill … … … … . . Swill

Swizzfiggling … … … . Deceiving

Telly-telly
Bunkum Box  . Television

Trogglehumper… … . . A horrible nightmare

Whiffling
… … … … . Going off to somewhere

Whizzpopper  … … … Fart

Whopsey… … … …
. Adjective similar to little or trifling


The BFG has its world premiere out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14 prior to its U.S. opening on July 1. E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982) also premiered on the Croisette. Just like E.T., Spielberg’s The BFG receives standing ovations.

In his Cannes review, Variety critic Peter Debruge writes: 

“That’s the beauty of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, as brought to life by recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance: You believe. No matter how fantastical the tale (and it gets pretty out-there at points), this splendid Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation makes it possible for audiences of all ages to wrap their heads around one of the unlikeliest friendships in cinema history, resulting in the sort of instant family classic “human beans” once relied upon Disney to deliver.”

Screenshots: © Disney Enterprises, Inc., DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media

2015
Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres in Los Angeles. More than 5,000 guests attend the world premiere in all three theaters on Hollywood Blvd.: Dolby Theatre, Chinese Theatre and El Capitan Theatre.

Before the screening, director J.J. Abrams thanks George Lucas, the mastermind behind the Star Wars universe, and his longtime mentor Steven Spielberg. “It is an honor to be here
with you at this incredibly low-key premiere
,” Abrams quips.

Then he speaks directly to Spielberg:

“I owed you everything already
before you lobbied for me to get this movie. Dude, I’m tapped
out.”

Abrams thanks the Star Wars crew before bringing the stars onstage. Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford all receive standing ovations.

Celebrity guests attending the premiere include directors Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler, Colin Trevorrow, Edgar Wright, Jon Favreau, and Roland Emmerich.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the 7th installment in the main Star Wars film series. The cast includes Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Simon Pegg and Max von Sydow

J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of the original trilogy films The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), rewrite an initial script by Michael Arndt

George Lucas serves as creative consultant during the film’s early production. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy is overseeing production (budget: $245 million). 

John Williams, who created the music for the previous six films, returns to compose the score.

The film breaks many box office records, becoming the highest-grossing installment of the franchise, with a worldwide gross of more than $2 billionStar Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens receives five Academy Award nominations

Two sequels, Episode VIII and Episode IX, will be released in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

2015
Walt Disney Pictures releases first teaser trailer for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming fantasy adventure film The BFG (2016). It’s the first time Spielberg directs a live-action 3D film.

The talents of three of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg – unite to bring Dahl’s classic children’s book The BFG to life. The screenplay is written by Melissa Mathison who also penned Spielberg’s E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982).

The film tells the imaginative story of a young
girl
and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant
Country. The BFG (Mark Rylance), while a giant himself, is a Big
Friendly Giant
and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country, e.g. Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement).
Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he
is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a precocious
10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious
giant who has brought her to his cave, but comes to realize that
the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a
giant before, has many questions. Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen
(Penelope Wilton) and warn her of the precarious situation, but
they must first convince the Queen and her maid, Mary (Rebecca Hall),
that giants do indeed exist. Together, they set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.

After his impressive portrayal of Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies (2015), Mark Rylance once again plays a major role in a Steven Spielberg film. Principal photography for The BFG begins just three months after Bridge of Spies wraps.

Filming locations are: Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada), Blenheim Palace, Woodstock (Oxfordshire, United Kingdom), Buckingham Palace, Westminster (London, United Kingdom), Skye, Highland (Scotland, United Kingdom).

The film’s score is composed by John Williams. Other regular Spielberg-collaborators are: Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński, Editor Michael Kahn, as well as producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. The stunning visual effects are created by Weta Digital.

The film is a co-production between Walt Disney Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media

Release dates

Spielberg on Melissa Mathison: E.T.’s Glowing Heart Was Hers

2015
In a TIME Magazine article, Steven Spielberg talks about the late screenwriter Melissa Mathison and her contribution to his upcoming screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG (2016).

Spielberg compares it with his experience of working with her on the story for E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982) while shooting Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981):

“I found working with Melissa that those 30-plus years had evaporated—it was just like being back in the cutting room on Raiders sitting on the floor with a bunch of cards strewn about, trying to figure out that story.”

Mathison was on set of The BFG every day of shooting in summer 2015, so Spielberg calls her “more than just a writing partner—she was a real on-set partner.” He adds:

“It did not feel like an adult was writing words, but
that they were coming improvisationally from the mouths of young people.
That was her magic and that was her gift with E.T., and she’s done the same thing with BFG.”

“I think her legacy will be that she could only tell a story that began and ended from the heart. E.T.’s glowing heart was, in fact, Melissa’s.”

In the same article, Kathleen Kennedy reveals that it was Harrison Ford who talked Melissa Mathison into writing the script for Steven Spielberg’s E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982). Initially, she refused arguing she wasn’t the right writer for it, so Spielberg turned to Ford and asked him for help.

In an interview with EW, Steven Spielberg speaks about his first encounter with Mathison and what he remembers most about his friend and collaborator: Her ability to find wonder in unlikely places. 

“Like a mirage in Lawrence of Arabia…That’s what it was like the first time I set eyes on Melissa. We were shooting Raiders. It was in 1980, in the unbearable heat of Nafta in Tunisia, and amidst a couple of hundred Arab extras dressed in German uniforms, I saw what looked like an egret.This person was bent over, picking stuff up off the ground. I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ And she said, ‘You know, this used to be the ocean floor and look at all these fossils…’ She was right. Everywhere you looked on the ground there were fossils and seashells and all kinds of things in the sand.I said, ‘Who are you?’ And she simply said, ‘I’m Harrison’s friend.’ And I said, ‘Well, what do you do?’ She told me, ‘Currently, I’m a failed writer.’ I began to laugh and she began to laugh. Then I said, ‘What have you failed at?’ She said she had written a number of scripts that she wasn’t really happy with, and only one got made. When I realized she had written The Black Stallion, it stopped me in my tracks because it’s one of my favorite movies. Then I started asking her a lot of questions about The Black Stallion. Before she was even finished answering them, I said, ‘I have a story about this alien that gets stuck on Earth with a family of divorce, and … would you be interested in writing this with me?’  She said ‘No, no, no. I’m retired from writing now. I need to find another way to live my life.’ I started telling her the story of E.T. that I had thus far, not down on paper, but in my head. She heard it and said, ‘That’s really sweet and interesting, but I’ve retired.’

I went back to the set and shot a couple scenes with Harrison and told him this curious story of bumping into Melissa while she was picking up seashells in the middle of the Tunisian desert. I told him I had offered her a chance to write a movie with me and she turned it down. Harrison said, ‘Sounds like Melissa…’ I asked, ‘Can you help me?’ He said, ‘Let me talk to her tonight.’ And so the next day Harrison came into work, and the first thing he said was, ‘I think she’s had a change of heart.’

When I sat down to talk to her about the script again a few days later, she said, ‘I wasn’t really listening to anything you were saying to me before, so why don’t you start over again?’ [Laughs.] She started to brainstorm with me and added all kinds of new ideas to the mix. And that’s when I knew that I had a partner. Melissa was back in the writing game.While I was in the editing room cutting Raiders, Melissa would come in two to three days a week, and we would just sit and develop the story. She would put everything on cards. Those cards became a kind of talisman, and defined the way I thought about Melissa’s creative partnership with me. All these little cards, where she wrote down either my ideas or her own, eventually became the first draft. She went away for six weeks and wrote the script.“When I finally read the script, I pretty much said, ‘I could shoot this movie tomorrow.’ We tweaked it and we changed just a little bit of the third act. At one point, E.T. got sick and was taken to a hospital, and the entire venue of the film shifted to a medical center. On second thought, it just seemed like a better idea to keep it at home and turn the house into a hospital, so that became the triage of trying to save E.T. and Elliott’s lives. Those were some of the very few changes. Of all the movies I’ve ever made, E.T. went through the least amount of revision. Melissa’s heart was just glowing over that movie. 

And the same darn thing happened 30 years later when we started our second collaboration on The BFG by Roald Dahl.The main difference was I didn’t have to talk her into writing this one. She had started writing it even before I came on board and had done three drafts before I started.It was the same energy and ease of conversation that happened all over again. I felt like I got into a time machine with her and went back to E.T.’s making, because the spirit that Melissa carried with her during her entire life had infected all of us, and she shaped The BFG into a portrait of a friendship. Melissa didn’t know she was sick at the beginning. The summer of 2014 was spent in a small garage in my house on Long Island, where we assembled the movie through [pre-visualized animations.] We made the entire movie of The BFG from beginning to end that way, and watched it and changed it. During principal photography in Vancouver this past spring, she was on the set every day, giving me the cards for the day’s work — just like on E.T

She seemed fine, but there were several times that she needed to go back to L.A. for personal reasons. I didn’t ask what the personal reasons were. And one time she was absent [for] four days. Then she came back and she seemed perfectly okay again. So her health issues came as a surprise to all of us.I’ve had a lot of time to think about Melissa since she died in November, and I’m not really sure she’s gone. I feel her presence more than her absence. I’m really going to start to hurt when that fades and I start missing her again in my life.I could speak for many of her closest friends — we’re all still in disbelief that she’s gone. The thing about Melissa was, she could just watch the traffic of everyday things speed by her, which was just fine with her because in her life she preferred to stroll. 

Moviemaking is often a lot of thunder and lightning, and Melissa was always the calm eye of the storm.She could relate to kids better than anybody I had ever met. On the set of E.T., she taught me on the first day of shooting that you never talk down to children. You get on their eye level and you simply fall into conversation with them. It changed my entire approach to directing children because I watched how effortless it was for Melissa to sit with Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, and Robert MacNaughton and just have a conversation with them.I think she understood the natural habitat of childhood. Melissa was all about discovery. And childhood is all about daily, even hourly, even minute-by-minute discoveries.Melissa was like a kid when she was making these little breakthroughs. Like how to tell a story, or how to find the right line of dialogue. Or how to find sea shells in a desert.

Spielberg on Melissa Mathison: E.T.’s Glowing Heart Was Hers

2013
J.J. Abrams gets the job to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) with an assist from
Steven Spielberg.

When Star Wars producer
Kathleen Kennedy is searching for a director, she sits down and chats with her
old boss, Steven Spielberg. He tells her:

“Kathy, there’s only one director that really
should undertake this daunting, epic task. And
that’s J.J. Abrams.”

2012
Steven Spielberg
’s masterpiece Lincoln covers the final few months of US President Abraham Lincoln’s life, focusing on his efforts to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution passed by the House of Representatives – resulting in the abolition of slavery in the United States of America. Lincoln is teaching us how to reach a consensus and succeed in backstage politics when pressing issues of society need to be solved. So, in essence, it’s a contemporary story told in a historic setting.

The film is produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, the screenplay is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Spielberg on his motivation to do the film:

“The
Lincoln project is something that I have been fascinated with all my
life. Like the kid in Minority Report, I used to cut out the profiles of
Presidents in third grade. Lincoln was my favorite profile. (…) As I
got older, I began reading history books and I became like a history
major. I never really majored in history in school but it was my most
favorite subject. (…) I realized that Lincoln changed the history of
the world.”

Daniel Day-Lewis brilliantly portrays President Abraham Lincoln, leading a formidable cast that includes Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tim Blake Nelson, Lukas Haas, and Tommy Lee Jones

Adam Driver – who will be cast as the villain in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – plays Washington war-room telegraph officer Samuel Beckwith. Kevin Kline makes a cameo appearance as a wounded soldier.

In preparation for The Unfinished Journey (1999) – a 21-minute short film directed by Spielberg and screened at the 2000 Millennium Gala in Washington DC, right in front of the Lincoln Memorial – Spielberg consults historians such as Stephen Ambrose, and Doris Goodwin. Asked about her current projects, Goodwin tells Spielberg that she is writing a book called “Team of Rivals” about Lincoln and his cabinet. Spielberg buys the film rights on the spot.

In the early stages of development, John Logan signs on to write a first draft. It is rewritten by playwright Paul Webb. He prefers to cover the entirety of Lincoln’s term as President. Due to Spielberg’s dissatisfaction with the script, the filming is delayed. He assigns another playwright who impressed Spielberg with his script for Munich (2005): Tony Kushner.

Kushner finds the Lincoln script assignment daunting because “I don’t understand what he did any more than I understand how William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet or Mozart wrote Così fan tutte.” Kushner’s initial 491-page draft focuses on four months in the life of Lincoln, and by 2009 he rewrites it to mostly cover two months in Lincoln’s life when he is preoccupied with adopting the Thirteenth Amendment.

Initially, Liam Neeson is cast as Lincoln, having previously worked with Spielberg in Schindler’s List (1993). In preparation for the role, Neeson studies Lincoln extensively – but leaves the project in 2010, stating that he realized during a table read that the part was not right for him. Neeson suggests Daniel Day-Lewis as his replacement and personally argues him into accepting the part. Spielberg and Kushner fly to Ireland to meet with Day-Lewis, followed by more rewrites before the actor finally agrees (after some more encouragement from Leonardo DiCaprio).

Financing the film takes nearly three years. Spielberg pitches the movie at Paramount, following the purchase of DreamWorks by Paramount’s parent company Viacom, in 2006, but the studio complains the budget, even pared to $50 million, is too high and its subject too close to Spielberg’s Amistad (1997), one of his least commercially successful movies.

Frustrated by the financing problems, Spielberg admits Lincoln came “this close” to premiering on HBO as opposed to premiering in theaters. When DreamWorks sets up a new distribution arrangement with The Walt Disney Company, the studio agrees to take North American rights. 20th Century Fox takes international rights, putting up half the production cost. To lay off some risk, DreamWorks turns to another frequent partner, Participant Media, and the film can finally be made.

Principal photography is completed in 64 days, most of it taking place in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Petersburg, Virginia. A former AMF Bowling plant in Mechanicsville, is used for a set that re-creates the interiors of the White House. “We worked hard to be as historically accurate as possible, all the way to the room where Mary and Lincoln had their scenes,” says production designer Rick Carter. “The wallpaper, rugs, everything was as accurate as it could possibly be.”

According to Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński, he and Spielberg agree on the first day to go for dim lighting that would reflect the use of candles and gaslight in the era. “We knew this was a haunted movie about a man carrying a tremendous burden,” says Rick Carter. “We wanted to go with almost a black-and-white photo yet always be able to pick out what was important in the frame.” The low light is a tool to direct the viewer’s eye. “I wanted to create depth of Lincoln’s character through lighting,” says Kamiński. “In group shots in his office, I set the light so your eye would go to Lincoln.” In later scenes, while the amendment is passed, Kamiński seeks to play against Lincoln’s iconic image. The result is an angelic but natural shot of Lincoln bathed in light. “I wanted to create a very intimate image of this man on the most important day of his life: He’s still a father, and he’s still allocating time to be with his family and his son.”

On set, cast and crew act reverential towards the subject at hand: Conversations between scenes are kept to a whisper, and no one talks to Day-Lewis unless it is necessary. Spielberg, whose typical attire when directing is a baseball cap and jeans, wears suits and ties. He not only addresses Day-Lewis as “Mr. President” but also calls many of the actors by their characters’ names as he immerses himself in American history.

Describing his experience playing Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis says, “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.”

“The toughest part about actually making the film,” says Spielberg, “was that it was eventually going to come to an end. After the first day of shooting, I started mourning the last day of shooting. (…) It’s rare that this has ever happened. E.T. might be the only other time.”

Lincoln is shot on 35mm film and cut on Avid, marking the third time that Michael Kahn edits digitally for Spielberg. “Steven saw how efficient it was, how it saved it a lot of time, so we’ve been on Avid ever since,” says Kahn, who was noted for his speed on the Moviola and KEM. He admits that he’s never cut a film comparable to Lincoln before. “This picture has more dialogue, more getting into people’s heads. A lot of editors say dialogue is the hardest thing to make work, and after Lincoln I have to agree. Audiences won’t see our decisions to cut or not to cut, but the decisions are there.”

For his restrained and respectful composition of the film score, John Williams continues to laboriously write his notes by hand with pencil and paper at a piano – rejecting modern technologies and still managing to yield music of his established, superior quality.

Lincoln receives widespread critical acclaim, with major praise directed to the acting, especially Day-Lewis’ performance, as well as the direction and production merits.

Roger Ebert gives the film 4 out of 4 stars and says in his review, “The hallmark of the man, performed so powerfully by Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, is calm self-confidence, patience and a willingness to play politics in a realistic way.”

A. O. Scott from The New York Times states the film “is finally a movie about how difficult and costly it has been for the United States to recognize the full and equal humanity of black people” and concludes that the movie is “a rough and noble democratic masterpiece” – a portrait that is “intimate but also decorous, drawn with extraordinary sensitivity and insight and focused, above all, on Lincoln’s character as a politician. This is, in other words, less a biopic than a political thriller, a civics lesson that is energetically staged and alive with moral energy.”

Despite its running time of 150 minutes, the film is also a huge commercial success, proving that a lot of moviegoers approach it as more than just a dull history lesson. In only its first four weekends of wide release, Lincoln grosses more than $275 million worldwide (against a budget of $65 million). Washington insiders see the film as an object lesson in how a president should work with Congress (the film is screened at the White House and the Senate).

The film is nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director for Spielberg, winning Best Actor (Motion Picture – Drama) for Daniel Day-Lewis.

At the Academy Awards, the film is nominated for 12 Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning for Best Production Design and Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis – becoming the very first actor to win an acting Oscar for a movie directed by Steven Spielberg.

2012
The Producers Guild of America (PGA)
honors Steven Spielberg with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award. The award is presented to Spielberg at the 23rd Annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. A special tribute highlights all the films that Spielberg has served as a Producer/Executive Producer (videoclip).

In their statement, Producers Guild Awards co-chairs Paula Wagner and Michael Manheim say: 

“As one of the most prolific filmmakers of all time, Steven’s continued genius, imagination and fearlessness in the world of feature film entertainment is unmatched in this industry. Steven has produced some of the most iconic films in the history of cinema and we have no doubt he will continue to bring thrilling adventures, emotionally moving storylines, thought provoking characters and cult classics to audiences across the globe. We’re extremely proud to recognize Steven’s contributions to the producing craft as well as the entire film industry with the David O. Selznick honor.”

Accepting the award, Steven Spielberg says: 

“David O. Selznick is a true legend in the producing field, and I am tremendously honored to be associated with his name and to join the company of so many distinguished filmmakers who have received this accolade. I am extremely grateful to the Producers Guild.”

The award has a rich and distinguished history with past recipients including such legendary producers as Stanley Kramer, Saul Zaentz, Clint Eastwood, Billy Wilder, Brian Grazer, Jerry Bruckheimer, Roger Corman, Laura Ziskin, Kathleen Kennedy & Frank Marshall, John Lasseter, and Scott Rudin.