Even an esteemed historian might not want to spend all her time with dusty manuscripts.
So a couple times, Doris Kearns Goodwin (the Pulitzer Prize-winner) did the opposite: She hung around a bar with Daniel Day-Lewis (the Academy Award-winning actor).
That led to “Lincoln” (shown here) and a favorable impression of Hollywood. Which is one reason she was willing to produce the “Washington” documentary series (see separate story) that runs Feb. 16-18 on the History Channel.
Steven Spielberg has optioned Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” He had Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) write a screenplay focusing on the push for the amendment banning slavery. He also managed to get Day-Lewis — rumored to be retired — to play Lincoln.
The next step was Goodwin’s. She was supposed to meet Day-Lewis in Springfield, Ill., to talk about Lincoln and give him some books. She also was told to make sure no one recognized him … not easy, since he wanted to meet in the hotel bar.
That’s when a stranger had drinks sent over to them, she recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh no, he’s been made. I’m going to be in trouble.'”
Not so. The stranger had recognized her; Day-Lewis, the movie star, remained anonymous.
For the next year (a time-frame he insisted on), he retreated to the Irish home where he lives with his wife Rebecca Miller, the writer and filmmaker whose father was playwright Arthur Miller. He devoured the books Kearns kept spending and got into character. “During the filming, he had everyone call him ‘Mr. Lincoln,'” said Goodwin, 77.
After a screening, he took Goodwin to his favorite New York bar. Then came the rush of awards, including his third Oscar and more. During one acceptance speech, she recalled fondly, he said one of the high points was “getting to go binge-drinking with Doris Kearns Goodwin.”