"There have been other movies about Lincoln," said James McPherson, a Civil War historian, Abraham Lincoln biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Battle Cry of Freedom," in a recent interview after seeing the film. "They tended to reflect a romanticized Lincoln, almost a mythologized Lincoln. This comes closer to reality. This shows Lincoln's exhaustion, his gauntness — and his storytelling."
McPherson, a professor emeritus at Princeton University, was one of many Civil War historians who met with Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner early on in the writing process to help provide background for the film. Initially, Spielberg had optioned Doris Kearns Goodwin's three-man biography, "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln." Ultimately, Kushner used that book as a jumping-off point for the "Lincoln" screenplay, which depicts the last weeks of Lincoln's life in 1865, when the president pushed for passage of the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery.
In focusing on a short span of time, the movie delves deeply into Lincoln's personality, his political tactics and his relationship with his Cabinet and family. As a result, McPherson said, he considers "Lincoln," which stars Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role, the most accurate screen portrayal of the great leader that he's ever seen.