Read our interview with author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her prize-winning, best-selling book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” was the basis for Steven Spielberg’s new film LINCOLN.
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11/08/12 - Grauman’s Chinese, 7:00 p.m.
This interview is the Cover Story in the latest issue of American Film™, AFI’s monthly e-magazine.
Doris Kearns Goodwin is one happy historian. “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” her prize-winning, best-selling account of the Lincoln White House, has been turned in part into a film by Steven Spielberg with a script by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) starring Academy Award® winner Daniel Day-Lewis (MY LEFT FOOT, THERE WILL BE BLOOD). LINCOLN will have its World Premiere at the American Film Institute’s AFI FEST in Hollywood on November 8.
Goodwin saw the nearly finished film in August. “I think it’s quite wonderful,” she said. We spoke to her about LINCOLN and movies in general on a day when her press commitments were beginning to pile up and her voice was getting raspy from a surfeit of air travel. The author was the same genial personality we’ve come to know from her many television appearances. It turns out she is a “huge movie fan.”
“We have…a big screen television that comes down to watch movies on with friends, but there’s still something special about going to the movie theater, letting the lights darken, having the M&M’s® and sitting there and watching movies,” she explained. “We live in Concord, Massachusetts, so we’ve got a theater in Lowell that has stadium seating, about 15-20 minutes away, a theater in Burlington, and then sometimes we need to go to Boston or Cambridge to watch.”
Goodwin’s favorite movie memory is GONE WITH THE WIND, “having read it at 12-years-old with my best friends on a blanket on our lawn and then finally seeing the movie when the book had meant so much,” she recalled. “I’ve loved all those old historical ones. I loved THE KING’S SPEECH last year and I loved THE ARTIST and sometimes I love just plain comedies like THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. I like mysteries, but there aren’t that many mysteries. You know, they’re different from spy films. I like James Bond. I just love the experience of going to the movies.”
Amazingly, Goodwin isn’t the only author in her family with a major movie book deal. Her husband Richard Goodwin, who worked in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, wrote a memoir called “Remembering America,” which included his role in investigating television quiz shows in the 1950s. That chapter formed the basis of Robert Redford’s acclaimed 1994 film QUIZ SHOW, which was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Picture.
Goodwin’s relationship with Spielberg dates back to the 1990s. “He was making a film for the millennium, a documentary about the history of the 20th Century that was going to be shown at the Lincoln Memorial,“ she recalled. “We had a meeting of historians in New York and then I followed up with some notes for him and he invited me to come out to his home on Long Island to talk about the documentary more.”
While she was there, the director asked Goodwin what she was working on. When she explained she was in the middle of a book about Lincoln, he confessed that he had always wanted to make a movie about him and asked to have a first look at it. They shook on it. “And I thought, wow, that would be great and I wasn’t even done yet at that time,” said Goodwin.
11/01/12 - Grauman’s Chinese, 7:30 p.m.
This interview comes to us via the latest issue of American Film™, AFI’s monthly e-magazine.
Sacha Gervasi (pronounced Jur-VAH-zee) makes his feature film directing debut with HITCHCOCK, starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. Billed as a love story about the famed director and his wife Alma during the making of PSYCHO, AFI FEST hosts the movie’s World Premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on November 1. Born in London in 1966, Gervasi got his screenwriting start with THE BIG TEASE, which he co-wrote with Craig Ferguson, and went on to pen THE TERMINAL directed by Steven Spielberg. He directed the rock-umentary ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL in 2005, which later won an Emmy Award and Best Documentary at the Independent Spirit Awards.
American Film: You live in Los Angeles, don’t you?
SG: I do, I live here. I actually moved here some years ago to go to UCLA film school and I’ve been going back and forth between London and here for quite some time. But now, here’s my home.
AF: What attracted you to the story of HITCHCOCK?
SG: The central relationship—because, as a fan of Hitchcock, having seen most of his movies at film school and before, one thing I really didn’t know about was the degree to which Alma Hitchcock, his wife, was so intimately involved in every aspect of his process throughout almost his entire career. What drew me to the story was the chance to tell the untold story of a great collaboration as well as a marriage, and I just felt there was something really resonant about telling a story about a mostly unsung, unacknowledged partner who made such a critical contribution to the work of a great artist.
Gore Vidal, in the April 1977 issue of AMERICAN FILM: “I like a talky movie. I believe that an audience will sit still for a great deal of dialogue, if it’s good. A director told me the other day that you couldn’t have any scene that lasted more than three minutes. The audience wouldn’t sit still for anything longer, which is nonsense. If the scene is interesting, the audience will listen for as long as necessary. But you have to be interesting.”
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