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The movie ''Lincoln,' with a screenplay written by Tony Kushner, opens in Lake Charles and across the country Friday, Nov. 16. (American Press Archives)

The movie ''Lincoln,' with a screenplay written by Tony Kushner, opens in Lake Charles and across the country Friday, Nov. 16. (American Press Archives)

Ex-Lake Charles resident Kushner thrilled over 'Lincoln' reception

Last Modified: Sunday, November 25, 2012 9:52 PM

By Cliff Seiber / Special to the American Press

After a period of nervous anticipation, Tony Kushner is glad the movie “Lincoln” is being well received.

“I am really, really glad people are flocking to it,” the Lake Charles native said in a holiday weekend telephone interview with the American Press. “It’s kind of an unusual film. It doesn’t follow the rules of any genre, so I was nervous about how it would be received. I am happy it’s out. It was a long process.”

“We wondered what the mood of the country would be after the election,” he said. “We delayed the release until after the presidential election because we didn’t want it politicized. Of course we didn’t know the outcome of the election, but we hoped it (“Lincoln”) would speak to it.”

Kushner, who grew up in Lake Charles, was the sole screenwriter on the Stephen Spielberg film which opened Nov. 16 in Lake Charles and across the country. In its second week, it ranked as the third-highest grossing film in the country, behind “Twilight Saga” and “Skyfall.”

The screenwriter said that his only regret is that his father, the late William Kushner, wasn’t around to see it. The senior Kushner was always interested in Lincoln’s life.

“If he had been able, he would have been the orchestra conductor in the scenes where the Lincoln’s attended the opera to see Gounod’s ‘Faust.’” As it was, the baton used by the conductor in the film had belonged to William Kushner, retired conductor of the Lake Charles Symphony.

“He read the screen play, and I kept him informed about the progress of the film,” Kushner said.

“He would have been pleased that Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach was an extra in the receiving line at a White House reception,” he said. Roach was in Richmond, Va., during the filming, and Kushner invited him to take part. However, the scene was a long one, and Spielberg cut the part where Roach was seen.

Kushner defended the role of Mary Lincoln, played by Sally Fields, in the film. When asked about a frequent belief that Mrs. Lincoln was insane, he said anyone who knows the history of the Lincolns knows that is not true.

“She was a difficult person, and she may have been manic depressive, but if ‘insane’ means psychotic, that is definitely not true. Nothing in the significant books that I read, from the cornerstone of the Lincoln Library, says that.”

“There are a huge number of misconceptions about the Lincolns, and that is one of them.”

“We agree in the film that she was a valuable, good wife to the president, and that they loved each other very much.”

Kushner said it was a thrill to talk to President Obama at a White House screening of “Lincoln” and dinner the evening before the national opening of the film.

“He told me he liked it a lot, and we had a nice talk about Lincoln,” Kushner said, “and how the movie is relevant to today.”

It was Kushner’s third time as a guest at the White House, but it surpassed the previous experiences. In 1995, he was at Vice President Al Gore’s table at President Bill Clinton’s dinner for the arts. It was after Kushner’s play “Angels in America” won the Pulitzer Prize.

In 2010 he was keynote speaker for the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities awards ceremony at the White House.

Posted By: Mark Ian Holt On: 12/12/2012

Title: Corrected by conductor

Too many errors above, can you replace with this edit?
I was the Opera conductor for that scene in Lincoln, and met Tony in the lobby of the Richmond theater where it was filmed. He showed me the baton, and wanted this small token to be part of the film in his honor. He could have demanded I use it, but politely asked me if it was OK. I, of course, was honored.
It is a true antique, an ebony shaft with silver tip, and an ivory handle (well used and somewhat fragile, so he absolved me of any blame if it was damaged). I returned it in good condition. it is something that would never be used for conducting today, but really made the experience authentically 19th century.

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