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

By 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.