Steven Spielberg shares Daniel Day-Lewis' Lincoln rejection letter
The first time he was asked-- he passed. The second time they wrote an entirely new script, which was sent to the actor-- he passed. The third time, Spielberg asks his MUNICH collaborator Tony Kushner to write yet another script, but then had to get down to the fine details of the 16th president in 500 pages. Finding all those details paid off because Lewis finally agreed to the project. Well, who do you go to when he backs out for good? Ralph Fiennes? Liam Neeson? Anyone?
Before handing Day-Lewis the award for best actor at the New York Film Critics Circle award, Spielberg took it upon himself to read the first rejection letter that the actor had sent him:
It was a real pleasure just to sit and talk with you. I listened very carefully to what you had to say about this compelling history, and Iíve since read the script and found it in all the detail in which it describe these monumental events and in the compassionate portraits of all the principal characters, both powerful and moving. I canít account for how at any given moment I feel the need to explore life as opposed to another, but I do know that I can only do this work if I feel almost as if there is no choice; that a subject coincides inexplicably with a very personal need and a very specific moment in time. In this case, as fascinated as I was by Abe, it was the fascination of a grateful spectator who longed to see a story told, rather than that of a participant. Thatís how I feel now in spite of myself, and though I canít be sure that this wonít change, I couldnít dream of encouraging you to keep it open on a mere possibility. I do hope this makes sense Steven, Iím glad youíre making the film, I wish you the strength for it, and I send both my very best wishes and my sincere gratitude to you for having considered me.
This is the classiest way to reject a part ever.