Actor Daniel Day-Lewis grew up in England and Ireland and knew almost nothing about Abraham Lincoln prior to playing him in Steven Spielberg's epic new film.
Day-Lewis, 55, has already won two best actor Oscars and critics claim his performance in Lincoln will certainly earn him another nomination.
According to the New York Times, Day-Lewis physically resembles Lincoln more closely than many of his predecessors. But much is being made of his accent work as the character which is being described as high, earnest and folksy.
It's not as if he can't afford to take chances. Day-Lewis is famously thorough about what parts he takes, sometimes waiting years between films spending time in both Ireland and America with his wife, Rebecca Miller, and their two sons.
A famously method actor, where the actor immerses himself in all the details of his characters life, to play Abraham Lincoln, Day-Lewis reportedly half-convinced himself that he actually was Abraham Lincoln.
'It sounds pretentious, I know. I recognize all the practical work that needs to be done, the dirty work, which I love: the work in the soil, the rooting around in the hope that you might find a gem. But I need to believe that there is a cohesive mystery that ties all these things together, and I try not to separate them,' Day-Lewis said.
Spielberg approached Day-Lewis with a script by America's most accomplished contemporary playwright Tony Kushner, which was loosely based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book 'Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,' and covering just the last four months of Lincoln’s life.
In those months Lincoln pushed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, through Congress. 'I found it quite intriguing,' Day-Lewis told the Times. 'I thought it was a great idea — for someone else.'
Day-Lewis says he prepared for the part mostly by reading. He also reportedly spent a lot of time studying the photographs taken by Alexander Gardner toward the end of Lincoln’s life. 'I looked at them the way you sometimes look at your own reflection in a mirror and wonder who that person is looking back at you,' he said.
Contemporary accounts suggest that Lincoln had a high-pitched voice, and Day-Lewis has a private theory that higher voices carry better in crowds, which made Lincoln such an effective orator - hence his surprising accent in the film.
'No one can categorically say this is or isn’t what Lincoln sounded like. That to me was a genuine breakthrough for Lincoln,” he said.
Day-Lewis also revealed he felt a 'great sadness' when the movie was done and that he still feels connected to it. 'I’m woefully one-track-minded. Without sounding unhinged, I know I’m not Abraham Lincoln. I’m aware of that. But the truth is the entire game is about creating an illusion, and for whatever reason, and mad as it may sound, some part of me can allow myself to believe for a period for time without questioning, and that’s the trick.'
'Maybe it’s a terrible revelation about myself that one does feel able to do that,' he laughed.