Steven Spielberg’s biopic of Abraham Lincoln (which is based on the best-selling book, Team of Rivals, by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and features a script by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner) has been in the works forever. In fact, some people had given up hope that it would ever be made. And then came today’s announcement that Daniel Day-Lewis — and not Liam Neeson, as was previously thought — will star as the 16th President of the United States. (Allegedly Neeson thinks that he’s too old to play the role. He’s 58; Lincoln was 56 when he died. Whatever.) As Day-Lewis is notorious for his rigorous role preparation, we thought we’d give him some suggestions for tackling what is sure to be another Oscar award-winning part.
1. Grow a beard. Thanks to an 11-year-old named Grace Greenwood Bedell Billings who thought his face was too thin, Lincoln was the first president to have a beard.
2. Practice wielding an ax. Lincoln became an adept ax man during a stint chopping rails for fences in his teens.
3. Cut off any religious affiliations you might have. While Lincoln read the Bible and considered himself a Christian, he was totally non-denominational.
4. Eat lots of lamb shanks, chicken casserole, and scalloped oysters. These were reportedly among Lincoln’s favorite foods.
5. Wear big hats. More specifically, a stovepipe top hat, and use it to hold all of your belongings, like Lincoln did.
6. Keep a dream journal. Lincoln took his dreams quite seriously. In fact, he dreamed about his own death just a week before he was assassinated.
7. Host a seance. After their son Willie died during Lincoln’s first-term, Martha convinced the President — who had a strong interest in psychic phenomena — to hold several seances in the White House. According to legend, a piano was raised and moved around the room at one of them.
8. Be an insomniac. Lincoln would pace the White House late into the night during the Civil War, and would try to distract himself by telling his overworked aides funny stories.
9. Make a mess. Lincoln’s office was supposedly a total wreck. So bad that he had to keep one envelope marked “When you can’t find it anywhere else, look into this.”
10. Invent something. Lincoln was the only president ever to obtain a patent. Granted, patent number 6469, a complicated device for lifting ships, was never put to practical use, but it’s still impressive.