Four years ago today, I was a background actor on the set of Steven Spielberg's film, "Lincoln" (starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Fields). It was actually my second day of being on set. The first day we filmed theater scenes all day, and my small group did such a good job reacting to the news that Lincoln had been shot, they actually filmed the front of us in one section of the theater, then moved us to another second and filmed the back of us. However, out of a full day of filming, none of the audience reaction shots made it into the film. That is often how it goes. BUT, Steven Spielberg did touch my shoulder in passing that day, and referred to a group of us ladies as "sugar plum fairies" (probably because of our hoopskirts, haha!). For a story about how I almost literally died at Spielberg's feet, read to the end of the post...
This second day, I reported to set at 5am after a very sleepless night, changed in a huge tent with outside temperatures probably around freezing, spent two hours getting through wardrobe, hair, and makeup, and then spent 11 hours in holding, not getting on set until the last hour of the shooting day. That is a great illustration of the saying that filmmakers and actors like to joke about - "Hurry up and wait!"
Apparently, I wasn't supposed to be in holding all day. The Assistant Director saw me first thing in the morning and it turns out he wanted to bring me on set in the first or second wave, which would have put me in the line of people shaking hands with Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) at the reception scene at the White House. But since Production Assistants were sent to pull extras from holding the rest of the day, I ended up being in the LAST wave, and when the Assistant Director saw me again, he made the comment about wanting to have gotten me on set the first part of the day. Oh well! I was where I was supposed to be, and available at any time, so it wasn't my fault. It's too bad, though.
I *thought* it worked out to my favor, because I was featured in the scene that you can see in the picture below, which was the last thing they shot that day. It was for b-roll purposes (no main actors in the scene), but it also featured the wife and daughter of the Governor of Virginia (at the time), so I hoped it would make it in the film. But alas...it was cut. However, it DID make it into the brochure about the awards the film was nominated for, so I have this beautiful screenshot at least! Oh, and during one of the breaks while we were filming this portion, I sat on the floor, and Daniel Day-Lewis came and sat on the sofa a few yards away, silently contemplating in his role as Lincoln, so I got to see the famous method actor up close.
Here's another picture of my dress. Thankfully it was a strangely WARM December day since we were kept in holding outside all day. I actually got sunburnt on the back of my neck (who thinks about getting sunburnt in December?).
One more funny story from the first day of filming! Remember that I said I almost died at Spielberg's feet? Well, during the theater scenes on the first day, I was descending a long flight of marble stairs (Spielberg was standing near the bottom), and the heel of my shoe caught on my hoopskirt, and I would have catapulted quite violently down the stairs if I had not already had a hand on the railing and was able to catch myself. It was a very close call. I probably would have broken my neck or bashed my head open. At a minimum, I'm sure I would have landed in the hospital, so I'm very thankful God spared me from any injury (and embarrassment).
In closing, I'll just say that it is very unfortunate to be laced up very tightly in a corset on these big sets where the catering is AMAZING, because you hardly have room to eat anything. I was not the only woman to end up feeling nauseous because of how tight the corsets were. I only ate a little (and so sad to miss out on all the delicious deserts), but I still felt sick. I love the styles of this era, but I'm glad I don't have to wear a corset every day!
Well, I hope you enjoyed my stories from the set of Lincoln! It was a neat experience to be on a big Hollywood set with Steven Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Did anyone watch the movie when it came out?