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Steven Spielberg Never Saw Lincoln As A Biopic

Steven Spielberg Never Saw Lincoln As A Biopic

Movies about musicians, in particular, are infamous for reducing their topic’s remarkable lives to a glorified series of bullet-points (a formula gleefully mocked by the inspiration for the joke at the start of this article, “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story“). In truth, though, other types of biopics are often just as guilty of being glib, sacrificing depth in order to touch upon as many noteworthy historical incidents as possible. Suffice it to say, Steven Spielberg was never interested in making a film like that. Instead, as he told Deadline in 2012, his goal was always for “Lincoln” to feel like one of many portraits one could paint of Abraham Lincoln:

“I never saw it as a biopic. I sometimes refer to it as a Lincoln portrait, meaning that it was one painting out of many that could have been drawn over the years of the president’s life. Had I done the entire presidency, or his entire life, that would have qualified as biopic.”

In his search for the right approach, Spielberg cycled through many iterations of the film. One such early version was a war drama centered on the last three years of the U.S. Civil War, depicting no less than seven battles. Likening it to “Saving Private Ryan,” Spielberg admitted to Deadline the script “quickly wore thin on me and [it] became clear that it was not the story I wanted to tell.” 

Among the other “Lincoln” scripts developed was one Spielberg described to IGN in 2003 as being centered on old Abe’s relationship with abolitionist Frederick Douglass. One wonders how that iteration might have gone over, given the final version of “Lincoln” was (not unfairly) criticized for glossing over the role Douglass and other abolitionists played in the struggle to end slavery.

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