Texting with Honest Abe
Sally Field didn’t have time to rehearse for her role as the wife of the 16th president in “Lincoln.” Luckily, she and fellow Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis — who plays Honest Abe — had another way to develop the rapport necessary to portray the long-married couple.
I hear you and Daniel Day-Lewis texted each other, in character, before and during production.
I actually kept all the texts. I printed them up, I will keep them forever. They were breathtakingly wonderful and important to me because he kept doing it throughout the whole filming. … I will never reveal what they are. They are mine, they belong to me — a little like what Mary Todd felt about Mr. Lincoln. She burnt many of his letters. … But I will talk about the texts. It was so wonderful and so funny, a lot of it. … You know, we were texting, but as precisely Mr. Lincoln and precisely Mary Todd as we could manage. In the middle of last summer, he took to sending me limericks, and I would answer him by being critical. You know, “Is this the way you spend your time?” And criticize his lack of intelligence and his use of language. [Laughs]
It seems daunting to apply that manner of language to typing with your thumbs on a phone.
Yeah. It was really hard to do. It was helped by the fact that I was in the midst of research. … And also [screenwriter] Tony [Kushner]‘s words were already being imprinted on my head, so I had some sense of the use of the language.
Have you ever done anything like that with a co-star before?
You know, I have never done a role that’s this intense and emotional and connected to one human being and never have any rehearsal. … So many of the scenes that you see between Mary and Mr. Lincoln are literally walk on-set and do it. … But we had done so much work, he and I, and I think we both have enough miles in the saddle and the bubble that was created for us by Steven and by him to stay immersed in this world. … The [biggest] difficulty is owning the language.
Texts from Mr. Lincoln
Field explained to Metro that she developed and maintained her relationship with Day-Lewis while portraying Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln by text-messaging each other in character.
“Daniel started it, I didn’t do it,” she explains. “We texted each other since I had the role, which had been seven months or something.”
Field vowed to keep the texts to herself, but she did give us a taste of one such message, sent shortly before Day-Lewis began filming: “I know that the task before you is an enormous one, but my task is you. And that is my sole task. And so therefore I will be on your porch tomorrow. Your choice is to let me in or not. And whether you let me in or not, I will not go. In lieu of a carriage, find your shoes.”