Daniel Day-Lewis was not always wildly enthusiastic about playing Abraham Lincoln for Steven Spielberg in LINCOLN. In fact, he actually declined said part on a few occasions.
THIS piece over at THR reveals exactly how this was done, by publishing a message sent to Spielberg by Day-Lewis upon reading an early draft of the picture's script.
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 I’ve since read the script and found it in all the detail in which it describes these monumental events and in the compassionate portraits of all the principal characters, both powerful and moving. I can’t 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. That’s how I feel now in spite of myself, and though I can’t be sure that this won’t change, I couldn’t dream of encouraging you to keep it open on a mere possibility. I do hope this makes sense Steven, I’m glad you’re 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.
Clearly, the director ultimately persuaded DDL to assume the role...a process which took a long time, and a quantity of new drafts and fresh approaches to the project. More on this process can be found at THR as well.
I've hugely mixed feelings about LINCOLN, but my chief reaction is that it blew an unspeakably perfect and poignant ending by going on about five minutes too long. So grating was this miscalculation was that retroactively soured much of the film that had come before in my eyes. If you've seen the movie, you know where that perfect 'out' was...and may find yourself as bewildered I am regarding why it wasn't taken (I've encountered plenty of other folks who felt the same way as I do about this).
Or, perhaps you disagree?