The 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards took place on Jan. 27, 2013, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Here is what this Screen Actors Guild Award winner said backstage in the Golden Globe Awards press room.
Best Actor in a Motion Picture
What did Leonardo DiCaprio say to you to encourage you take on this role in “Lincoln”?
Leo, just in a chance meet, had asked me if I had given up on the idea, because he knew that I’d considered it a while ago. And quite honestly, I hadn’t thought about it for a long time, maybe some years. And he said, “Don’t give up on it. He’s the greatest man of the 19th century. And it stayed in my mind. So really, this is all Leo’s fault. [He laughs.]
Steven Spielberg originally wanted Liam Neeson to have the role of Abraham Lincoln in this movie. Have you heard from Liam?
Liam was a huge support to me. Obviously, it was a period of time when he had intended to tell a version of this story. I was aware of that during time. We’d spoken during that time. The minute he decided to move on, he began to encourage me to think about it myself. He’s just a wonderful man. He’s encouraged me throughout the whole thing.
You could be the first man to win three Best Actor Oscars. How do you feel about that?
Well, I could also not [win]. And there’s a good chance I won’t. I feel the same way in all these occasions. We’re mostly traveling as a group, my fellow nominees, give or take one here or there.
I’m delighted that Joaquin [Phoenix] will be there. It is only fitting that he is at the Academy Awards. I would happily recognize any single one person whose name is called. You just don’t know.
Members of the Academy love surprises, so the worst thing that can happen to you is some kind of expectation. I think they would probably be delighted if it was anybody else.
If Abraham Lincoln could see the movie “Lincoln,” what would he think about your performance?
I’m the worst person to ask that. You can ask somebody else what he might think. I wouldn’t know how to answer that. If I made him laugh a couple of times, I think he’d be happy enough with that.
What did you do to prepare for your role in “Lincoln”?
It’s nothing really any different. When Steven and I decided we’d try and do [the movie], I asked if I could have a year. I felt I would need a year. A good part of it was spent reading an enormous amount to learn, obviously. That goes without saying. And beyond that, it was just the normal, slow process that I go through. It’s hard to describe.
It really sort of divides into two parts. There’s no clear idea of when that transition will take place. But you go from an objective study, be it the time, the life, the society, the politics. And then in absorbing as much as you can, you hope to grow toward some kind of subjective understanding and feeling for that life you’re exploring. It’s hard to describe it, really.
For more info: Screen Actors Guild Awards website
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