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.
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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.