Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Coming Friday / Twilight, Lincoln Sally Field: First Lady of 'Lincoln'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Coming Friday / Twilight, Lincoln Sally Field: First Lady of 'Lincoln'

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- When Sally Field talks about the "weight of the role" she has in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," she's not kidding. "I gained 25 pounds to play her," said the two-time Oscar winner. "And then I had to have knee surgery."

The actress didn't say whether surgery was worth it, but Ms. Field's portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln -- wife of the 16th president and one of the more problematic figures in the American political pantheon -- has become one of the more talked-about aspects of Mr. Spielberg's Civil War epic. Which is saying something, considering that Daniel Day Lewis' performance as the nation's secular saint is destined for canonization itself.

"We all have a preconceived idea of her," Ms. Field said of a woman viewed for the past 150 years as the Macbethian ball and chain burdening a man many consider our greatest president. "But I didn't want to start with a conclusion. I did my research as an actress; I pulled the pieces together, and created my own psychological profile of her. I think she's one of the most abused, misunderstood and underexamined women in our history."

Scripted by playwright Tony Kushner, and based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Team of Rivals," "Lincoln" is less a standard biopic than the story of the 13th Amendment. Having made his Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln then needs it turned into cold, hard law. As the South's hopes are dimming, so are the amendment's chances -- without the war as leverage, there's no chance it will pass. Lincoln, a la Kushner-Goodwin, is a consummate politician, and though the film finds dignity in the man himself, it mines suspense out of the lowdown dirty political maneuvering of 1865 Washington.

The humanity of the story, on the other hand, lies in the relationships between the Lincolns. Son Willie has died, and haunts his family's dreams. Young Tad (Gulliver McGrath) dresses as a soldier and makes the White House his playground. The older Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is itching to get into the war while he still has a chance. …

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