Steven Spielberg held back ‘Lincoln’ release until after election to avoid 'contemporary politics'

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 6 2012 5:00 p.m. MST

Daniel Day-Lewis, center, stars as President Abraham Lincoln in director Steven Spielberg's drama Daniel Day-Lewis, center, stars as President Abraham Lincoln in director Steven Spielberg's drama "Lincoln." (David James, Associated Press)

Now that the 2012 election cycle is essentially over, the much-anticipated Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln” stands ready to take center stage with a limited release starting Friday and then its wide release Nov. 16.

In a “60 Minutes” profile of Spielberg last month, narrator Lesley Stahl matter-of-factly stated, “Spielberg decided to hold off releasing the movie until after the November election, because he didn't want the film to become a tug of war about party politics.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Labrecque shed additional light Tuesday on Spielberg’s motivation for releasing the film after the presidential election: “From the beginning, Steven Spielberg was determined to steer his Abraham Lincoln movie clear of contemporary politics. He specifically requested a post Election Day release date so as not to be engulfed in the push and pull of the heated presidential race. … Make no mistake, the Democrats in Lincoln are anything but heroic, and that’s an inconvenient truth for Spielberg, a strong supporter for Barack Obama and Democratic causes.

Steven Spielberg's film Steven Spielberg's film "Lincoln" will open when the heated election period is over. (Associated Press)

"It’s conceivable that Lincoln might have influenced some viewers’ votes had it opened before the election — especially undecided voters who might associate the film’s antagonistic Democrats with those on their current ballot.”

In other words, because Spielberg is a modern-day Democrat it follows that his politics generally frown on the Democratic Party platforms from Abraham Lincoln’s era. (In describing the party politics of 1865, David Edelstein of New York Magazine wrote this week, “The states’-rights (guys) are Democrats, the liberals Republicans — which means you have to do a little pirouette in your head whenever the party names are dropped.”) Thus, the Oscar-winning director pushed the film’s release date past the Nov. 6 general election knowing that that would prevent prospective voters from confusing “Democrats then” with “Democrats now.”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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