msnbc | November 24, 2012
>>> year about how politically divided america has become. but these times pale in comparison to the extraordinary high stakes during the civil war . the new film " lincoln " chronicles a president and a nation struggling to keep the union together.
>> this settles the fate of all coming times. not only for the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come. shall we stop this bleeding?
>> joining me now is historian doris kearns goodwin whose book
"team of rifles: the political genius was abraham lincoln " is the basis for the film. welcome, doris , so glad to have you.
>> thank you, thank you.
>> well, i have to give you congratulations on the movie, too. i absolutely loved it. has it been just a whirlwind since it came out for you?
>> oh, it's been absolutely terrific. i imagined in my mind lincoln for ten years, waking up with him in the morning, thinking what would he sound like if he talked. what would he walk like if he walked? and then suddenly, to be able to see daniel day -lewis having as much authentic as we know about lincoln 's voice, his walk, his talk, his funnyness in telling stories, i felt like he was back again. it's been an extraordinary experience.
>> i actually think that daniel day -lewis did an outstanding job. and i think he has depicted lincoln for the ages now. i think this will be the standard by which it will be judged. and i understand that you showed him around lincoln 's hometown of springfield, illinois. what was that like?
>> well, as soon as he decided to become lincoln , he asked me if i would take him through lincoln 's house that he lived in with mary, go to the library, go to the log house so we spent a couple of days in springfield in the beginning incognito with nobody recognizing him. until finally we went into a sandwich shop and somebody saw him and suddenly he was lincoln . it was great to show him the actual materials, in the library he could pick up the old documents. he could walk the rooms where abraham walked and he felt claustrophobic in abraham and mary's house. which is exactly how lincoln felt. it was the beginning of that long process by which he became abraham lincoln a year later.
>> this period that's covered in the film, does the movie stay true to history?
>> oh, without a question. alex, they've done as much as they can to authenticate even the minor characters. now, of course, there are moments when -- are lost to history like some conversations might be. and that's where steven spielberg would say imagination comes in. but it is as rooted in history, even when i went down to the richmond set and they took me into a room where they had recreated the white house , i was just blown away. the wallpaper was as we knew it was at the time. they had a picture of it. they had the carpet remade to look like the carpet. the books that were on the desk were the books that lincoln was reading at the time. the battle masts were there. i just felt like i'd walked and been catapulted back to 1964 and 1846 . that ends a whole degree of rootedness to the movie besides being an incredibly, dramatic story, a thriller of whether this amendment will pass.
>> it is such a thriller. we know the outcome, that's what i love about the movie. we know exactly what's going to happen and yet you're sitting on the edge of your seat with it. with regard to your book "team of rivals" it refers to lincoln 's cabinet, which several members were his former adversaries. how does that affect his presidency?
>> it was huge. i mean, he said when he won the election, the very night that he knew he needed to have the strongest and most able people in the country around him so they could argue with him, they could question his assumptions, and that that time it meant putting factions in some of which were moderate, conservative and liberal in the same inner circle . and i think that lesson is still so important today, whether or not it's bringing in somebody from the other party, whether it might be now for president obama , whiching top ceos into the government the way fdr did during a time of business unrest. there's got to be within that inner circle people who can question you. because then you become a greater leader as a result. and surely lincoln was.
>> and how close did this country get to living permanently?
>> oh, my god, i mean, if the civil war had ended earlier, if the south had won, secession would have continued. and then lincoln worried that if the south seceded from the north, maybe the west would some day secede from the east and that whole idea that democracy depended on ordinary people would be laughed at all over the world by kings and queens and tsars who said, you thought you could do you can't stay together, which is why lincoln talks continually in the movie about the need to cohere. it wasn't just keeping the south in the union, it was keeping idea alive that ordinary people could govern themselves. and winning the war, ending slavery, and keeping that union did all three of those things. .
>> well, doris , are you going to buy a ferrari, hang out with brad and angie?
>> i put them down here, i forgot to put them on.
>> oh, okay. there we go. hollywood doris .
>> it's a fabulous book, fabulous movie. thanks to daniel day lewis . i feel like i know lincoln the man. probably not like you do.
>> without question. that love is back in my life.
>> well, we can't wait for "teddy," but that'll be for another conversation. thank you, doris .
>> thanks, alex.