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Daniel Day Lewis, Abraham Lincoln movie

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Daniel Day Lewis, Abraham Lincoln movie

In the summer of 2011, the actress Sally Field began receiving text messages from Abraham Lincoln.

“I’d hear that twinkle-twinkle on my phone, and he would have sent me some ridiculous limerick,” says Field, who plays the 16th President’s wife Mary Todd in the new film Lincoln. “He’d sign it, ‘Yours, A.’ I would text back as Mary, criticizing him for the waste of his time when he might have been pursuing something more productive.”

In May of the same year, the director of Lincoln, Steven Spielberg, received a Pearlcorder tape machine in the mail. “I turned it on, and it was Shakespeare and the Second Inaugural in this voice,” Spielberg says. The voice was Lincoln’s. Not the stentorian tone that generations of schoolchildren have inferred from Lincoln’s gloomy portraits, but the one described by contemporary observers: a gentle tenor, reedy and slightly cracked, the accent a frontier blend of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. “A beautiful voice. I wanted that voice to read me a book. It came with a letter that said, ‘After you listen to this, would you ring me up and we’ll have a natter?’ I immediately got on the telephone and said, ‘Who is this?’”