Not only is DDL one of the top three or four greatest living actors, but he’s a meticulous researcher who absorbs himself in a character, both during and prior to filming. This is clearly the case with his portrayal of Lincoln. The higher register voice, which reminds me of the higher breathless pitch of Chris Matthews or, dare I say, Newt Gingrich and Pat Buchanan, is historically accurate based on contemporaneous descriptions. The familiar, deeper superheroic voice of Lincoln is about as accurate as portraying Lincoln as a 20 feet tall marble man.
He was physically awkward, unkempt and gangly, partly due to genetics and partly due to chronic depression and the unbearable strain of his post. He was 6’5″ and lean, and his features became more gaunt and weathered as war continued.
The author Nathaniel Hawthorne, a Lincoln fan, wrote of the president’s “homely sagacity” and his “sallow, queer, sagacious visage.” Hawthorne’s description was deemed disrespectful and deleted by a magazine editor,” said Daniel Weinberg, who owns the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago.
Gutzon Borglum, who carved on the Mount Rushmore (South Dakota) the monument representing the faces of several U.S. Presidents, referred to the left side of Lincoln’s face as being primitive, immature and unfinished.
His face was noticeably lopsided — perhaps from a horse’s kick to the face when he was a child or perhaps a developmental defect of some sort. DDL has matched Lincoln’s asymmetrical facial features with a crooked jaw and permanently raised left eyebrow.
I honestly believe that after DDL’s performance, regardless of the movie as a whole, we’ll have an entirely new and refreshingly honest “human” view of Lincoln. He was, after all, a deeply troubled man who lost two children, one during his presidency, while also managing over the unprecedented bloodshed of the Civil War and a succession of generals, many of whom prolonged the war with their incompetency. To perform the role of Lincoln in complete defiance of the real man would be a willingly ignorant trespass against well-known history.