Sally Field on Playing Mary Todd Lincoln: “I did as much research as humanly possible”


Sally-Field-Lincoln Sally Field fought to play Mary Todd Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s biopic, Lincoln, so she was more than happy to do plenty of research in order to get the correct portrayal of the famous first lady.

“I did a tremendous amount of research, both reading biographies about her, reading her letters, I went to her home, I traveled around to try to find artifacts of her and tried to find out what she wore and what she looked like as much as I could,” Field told Moviefone.  “I did as much research as humanly possible, I think.  I put on 25 pounds, I tried to find a dialect at the time by talking to women in Kentucky who were 80 years old so I was able to sort of count back and hear their dialect.”

Field said the filming schedule was laid out so “we worked pretty much without rehearsals at all, so when it was time to shoot it, we just stepped on the set and just brought it.  There were some scenes that we shot literally without any rehearsal, like the carriage ride and the scene of Mary grieving was shot with very few takes.  You just sort of fly by the seat of your pants and jump off a cliff.”

When asked whether Daniel Day Lewis (who plays Lincoln) worked as a method actor, Field said, “People don’t know what method is.  I am method!  I studied at the Actor’s Studio.  I studied with Lee Strasberg.  That’s where the term ‘method’ came from.  Daniel and I work exactly the same way.  I always stay in character. Any good actor does that.  Daniel happens to be the best of the best of the best.  He really created a world as an actor that I [also]create, but I hide it from people.  I don’t tell people because they’ll think I’m a lunatic or hard to get along with.

“The bubble that you create to try to make yourself believe you live in this world that you’re presenting is what an actor has to do.  You can’t go in and out of it.  You have to stay in it, talk with the accent, you have to stay there.  I have always done that.  People don’t know that because I’ve never had the guts or whatever to ask the people to participate in it with me.  Working with Daniel was like I’d died and gone to heaven.”

Field also noted that it’s not any more difficult to stay in character while filming a period film.  “If you read any great acting books like Stanislavsky, they talk about exteriors being as important, and in some cases more important, than the interior.  When you put on those authentic garments, some part of your DNA still has some information about that time.  I don’t know how.  And so it really serves its purpose.”

Lincoln hits theaters November 16.


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