Updated: Mar 15, 2020
In the 2012 Spielberg movie Lincoln, Daniel Day Lewis wins an Oscar for his portrayal of the title role. He’s superb. If you enjoy historical dramas, period pieces, you must see this film.
It’s been reported that during the entire filming, Lewis never came out of character – even off set – which must have been really weird for his family!
In Lewis’ acceptance speech for the Best Actor Oscar, he thanked his wife for her ‘willingness to live with so many different men’ during the course of their relationship! That’s how he does it! It’s his ‘secret sauce.’ He completely immerses himself in his roles and literally becomes the character.
The method obviously works for him because he’s the only actor in history to win that coveted award three times: (Lincoln (2012), My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1990), and There Will be Blood (2007)), and he’s been nominated for three others - wow!
Picture this scene from the movie:
Lincoln sits across a dimly lit dinner table from a lesser-known character in American History – Thaddeus Stevens. Stevens was an abolitionist staunchly committed to a very specific, worthy goal: Passing the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, thereby abolishing slavery in the United States. He’s undeniably passionate about the cause. Throughout the film, Stevens berates Lincoln for not leading more effectively to that end.
Stevens, expertly played by Tommy Lee Jones, lets Lincoln have it:
"I don't [care] what the people want ... the people elected me to represent them, to lead them and I lead. You ought to try it! You claim you trust 'em, but you KNOW what the people are. You know that the inner compass that should direct the soul toward justice has ossified in white men and women – North and South – unto utter uselessness through tolerating the evil of slavery."
Lincoln pauses briefly to reflect on what’s just been said. Then he adds his own thoughts to the conversation:
“A compass, I learned when I was surveying, it'll point you True North from where you're standing. But it's got no advice about the swamps, deserts and chasms you'll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination you plunge ahead heedless of obstacles and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp ... what's the use in knowing True North?"
Lincoln makes a great point: It’s good to have a destination in mind and a compass pointing us toward our initial direction. Yet, a compass is oblivious to the obstacles between our intended destination and where we are today.
If you’re serious about living into your intentionally created, most desired legacy, you need something even more valuable than a compass.
You need a guidance system.
Only our ‘conscience’ informs us if we’re making progress toward our intended destinations or even if those desired destinations are the right ones to pursue in the first place! A compass is valuable for sure. But it must be regularly calibrated by your conscience – your guidance system.
We’ll pick up there next time. Until then, be significant!
“The voice of conscience is so delicate it’s easy to stifle; so clear it’s impossible to mistake.”
– Anne Germain De Stael
Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg (2012; Los Angeles, CA: Dreamworks/ Twentieth Century Fox, 2013), DVD.