SPRINGFIELD – Leaving nothing to chance, two-time Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis’ preparations to play Abraham Lincoln on film included secretly spending time on the former president’s turf.
Day-Lewis, along with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and producer Kathleen Kennedy, came to Springfield in November 2010 to tour Lincoln sites, at times standing in the Old State Capitol’s chamber and asking to be left alone for 10 minutes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Day-Lewis, the star of Steven Spielberg’s recently released film “Lincoln,” noted the room’s intimacy as he tried to feel the towering 16th president’s lingering presence.
“He was very studious and reverential,” said Dave Blanchette, deputy director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, where Day-Lewis asked to touch the letters Lincoln wrote to his generals.
“Lincoln” is the fifth film in the past 15 years for Day-Lewis, who won Oscars for his performances in “My Left Foot” and “There Will Be Blood.” He is deliberate in choosing roles, as he insists on understanding characters intimately enough to feel he’s living out their experiences.
“Lincoln” details the months leading up to the president’s assassination in April 1865, as he maneuvers to pass the 13th amendment abolishing slavery and ending the Civil War.
Day-Lewis had hoped to go unnoticed in Springfield, wearing sunglasses and a fedora at the museum that, in 2011, had more than 293,000 visitors.
“It was intended to be an under-the-radar visit,” Blanchette said, noting that Goodwin – not 55-year-old Day-Lewis – often was recognized by onlookers.
As the secret tour pressed forward, the group stopped at a coffee shop, where the actor accidentally blew his cover.
“His phone rang and he said, ‘Hello, this is Daniel Day-Lewis,’ ” Blanchette recalled. “Then the secret was out,” evidenced by the flood of picture-taking and tweeting by onlookers.
Day-Lewis indulged the fans and was a good sport, Blanchette said.
Goodwin said recently that Day-Lewis told her “those days in Springfield were really important.”
The museum, which opened in 2005, and showcases Lincoln’s life by mixing original objects and archives with Disney-like re-creations, including life-size wax figures of Lincoln and his family, a multimedia exhibit on the Civil War and two high-tech theaters.