CBS will air a sneak peek at Steven Spielberg's new biopic 'Lincoln'

'Lincoln' is loosely based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's 2005 biography 'Team of Rivals.'

David James/Disney-Dreamworks II/AP
Daniel Day-Lewis (pictured) will play the sixteenth president in Steven Spielberg's new movie 'Lincoln.'

It’s the story of an embattled president trying to end one of the country’s most destructive wars while bargaining with Congress to see through one of the most transformative pieces of legislation in history.

It’s also one of the most anticipated movies of the season – and we’re all getting a sneak peek this Sunday.

CBS’s Lesley Stahl interviews Steven Spielberg on his upcoming film, “Lincoln,” a dramatic look at a four-month period in the life of the sixteenth president. The interview, which airs Sunday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 PM EST, also contains the first clips from Spielberg’s film.

“I’ve always wanted to tell a story about Lincoln,” Spielberg tells Stahl in an interview preview released by CBS. “I saw a paternal father figure, someone who was completely, stubbornly committed to his ideals, his vision. I think the film is very relevant for today. It’s about leadership.”

“Lincoln” is loosely based on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 biography, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” (Incidentally, it’s also the first read on CBS This Morning’s book club, “CBS This Morning Reads.)

Spielberg tells Stahl “Lincoln,” which stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, is unlike any movie he has ever done, with nary an action scene or special effect.

“I knew I could do the action in my sleep at this point in my career,” Spielberg, of “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” fame, told CBS. “In my life, the action doesn’t... attract me anymore.”

Instead, the movie centers on the political process Lincoln and his “team of rivals” engaged in to achieve some of the country’s greatest accomplishments, including Edwin Stanton, Salmon Chase, William Seward, and Edward Bates. It’s unique in that it is a multiple biography that profiles each of the key players in the team that led the country though one of its greatest crises.

The film covers a four-month period of Lincoln’s presidency “in which he is absorbed with trying to get Congress to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery,” according to CBS. “It follows the political process closely and accurately portrays a drama few have heard about from the last four months of Lincoln’s life.”

According to early reports, it’s as deeply personal as it is political. “Lincoln” “explores the drama and darkness inside the head of one of history’s greatest figures,” writes CBS.

“I think there’s a sense of darkness... with him,” Spielberg tells Stahl in the upcoming “60 Minutes” interview. “He was living with two agendas, both of which had to do with healing... first, to abolish slavery, end the war. But he also had his personal life and I think there’s darkness in there.”

In the interview, Spielberg also reflects on his own personal life and childhood, which is reflected in this film. CBS has said Stahl will also talk about Spielberg’s childhood with his parents and promises a tantalizing time: “In a fascinating discussion of Spielberg’s childhood, his parents reveal a truth even their son didn’t know for many years.”

Do we need another book or film exploring Lincoln’s life? “Lincoln” is the latest in a spate of recent books and films about the sixteenth president and the latest example of the nation’s Lincoln-mania. (Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln” is one prominent example.) Spielberg is betting Americans want more. As those countless books and movies on Lincoln’s life attest, Americans are fascinated by the life of the nation’s sixteenth president, a never-fading passion that perhaps expresses our need to see shining examples during our own dark times, personal and political.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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