rejection letter

How Daniel Day-Lewis First Turned Down the Role of Lincoln

Photo: DreamWorks

When you watch Lincoln, it’s hard not to think, Oh, okay, so Daniel Day-Lewis just is Abraham Lincoln now. No one else will ever be Lincoln. The only real Abraham Lincolns are Daniel Day-Lewis and Abraham Lincoln. But there was a time when he wasn’t going to play the president. Well before shooting, he met with director Steven Spielberg but just wasn’t feeling it. So he wrote S.S. a note declining the role. Spielberg read the letter at last night’s New York Film Critics Circle Awards dinner. It went a little something like this:

“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 descries 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.” 


Maybe his next director can expect the rejection in limerick form.

How Day-Lewis First Declined the Role of Lincoln