I finally made my way to the theater to see Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s latest Oscar-quality drama. There were a lot of shining moments in a very solid film. Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role, a humongous and impressive cast, and a stirring finale all come to mind. But for most of the film’s running time, I couldn’t shake the thought- what would other directors have done with a historical drama about Abraham Lincoln?
I imagine Stone’s version would be titled, simply, ABE. It would be peppered with grainy, sepia-toned flashbacks to Lincoln’s childhood, as well as his courtship and early marriage to Mary Todd Lincoln. Like Spielberg’s version, ample time would have been given to Lincoln’s push to attain the votes to pass the thirteenth amendment. Unlike Spielberg’s, Stone’s version would feature strong implications that the votes were attained through illegal means.
It goes without saying that Anderson’s Lincoln would feature Bill Murray in the title role. Jason Schwartzmann would sub in for David Strathairn as William Seward, Anjelica Huston would play Mary Todd Lincoln, and Kumar Pallana would take on Thaddeus Stevens. The entire film would be told through the eyes of Tad Lincoln, who would band together with an unruly group of classmates to create havoc during the intense debate scenes before overtaking the White House. Their precocious determination would lead father Abe to ultimately view his children in a different, more favorable light.
The Bergman vision of Lincoln, titled Abrahåm Lincøln, would undoubtedly focus on the troubled marriage of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. The Civil War would function as a metaphor for Lincoln’s very own house divided against itself. At some point, Lincoln would fall ill, leading to an intense three-minute nightmare sequence amid his fever.
Park’s vision for a Lincoln biopic begins with an artful scene depicting Lincoln’s assassination, in front of Tad, at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. The film then flashes forward to 1870. Tad is now a teenager, stricken with tuburculosis. He is beloved as the orphaned child of a national hero, but his illness echoes his lust for vengeance, rotting him away from the inside. Before his illness advances too far, he concocts and then executes an elaborate, disturbing plot against the remaining members of John Wilkes Booth’s family.
Aronofsky’s Lincoln biopic would first establish the pressure Lincoln was under. It would begin with Willie’s death in 1862. War stress would build. The president would slowly but surely start to develop cracks in his psyche, illustrated in daydream sequences punctuated by a vibrating camera interlaced with actual events, such as the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s mental world would slowly crumble all around him before emerging, if only momentarily, during the finale for the end of the war and an abrupt ending at Ford’s Theater.
Ninety minutes of Civil War battlefield footage featuring liberal doses of close-ups on scavenging dogs, nesting birds, busy squirrels, and earthworms.
The Cameron twist on the Lincoln biopic would present the title character as a gung-ho all-American hero. His deep, profound love for Mary Todd Lincoln would drive the film, while the war and the thirteenth amendment would take a back seat… until, of course, it’s time for elaborate 3D Civil War battlefield explosions, of which there will be many.
Oh wait… we’ve already seen what Burton and his collaborators would do with a Lincoln biopic.