Resurrecting the Sounds of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s New Biopic

If you’re head­ing to see Steven Spiel­berg’s new biopic of Abra­ham Lin­coln, you can go there know­ing one thing (oth­er than Daniel Day-Lewis has deliv­ered anoth­er Acad­e­my Award-win­ing per­for­mance) — and that’s that the direc­tor, cast and crew paid close atten­tion to the his­tor­i­cal details. In an inter­view yes­ter­day, Sal­ly Field (who plays Lin­col­n’s wife Mary Todd) described how she immersed her­self in the lan­guage of the era, pored over let­ters exchanged between Lin­coln and his wife, gained 25 pounds to resem­ble Mary’s doc­u­ment­ed mea­sure­ments. And then there’s this curi­ous detail. Dur­ing the film­ing of Lin­coln (watch the trail­er below), Daniel Day-Lewis and Sal­ly Field nev­er spoke to one anoth­er out of char­ac­ter. They knew each oth­er sim­ply as “Mary Lin­coln” and “Mr. Lin­coln” through­out.

In the video above, we get to lis­ten to sound design­er Ben Burtt talk about his own quest for his­tor­i­cal authen­tic­i­ty — that is, how he tried to recap­ture the sounds that Lin­coln heard dur­ing his life­time. Of course, we don’t have audio record­ings from the 1860s. But Burtt found cre­ative ways to res­ur­rect sounds from the peri­od, like record­ing the tick-tocks of Lin­col­n’s per­son­al watch, or cap­tur­ing the sounds made by mahogany doors that still stand in the White House. We’ll let Burtt explain the rest above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Last Sur­viv­ing Wit­ness of the Lin­coln Assas­si­na­tion (1956)

Louis CK Plays Abra­ham Lin­coln, America’s 16th Pres­i­dent and (Yes) Stand-Up Come­di­an Too

Watch Steven Spielberg’s Debut: Two Films He Direct­ed as a Teenag­er

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  • Shelley says:

    That’s the first I’d heard that about the movie. As a writer whose work is based on his­to­ry, I agree that you can’t get the peo­ple right if you don’t get right what sur­rounds them.

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