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Tony Kushner, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is responding to Connecticut congressman Joe Courtney’s complaints about the film’s lack of historical accuracy.
Courtney complained that in the film, two of the state’s four representatives vote against the 13th amendment to abolish slavery. However, Courtney says that the fact is that all four voted in favor of the amendment and that Spielberg didn’t have the right to take artistic license with those facts.
“But in a movie based on significant real-life events — particularly a movie about a seminal moment in American history so closely associated with Doris Kearns Goodwin and her book, Team of Rivals — accuracy is paramount,” the congressman wrote.
In a letter published by The Hollywood Reporter, Kushner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, fired back.
“These alterations were made to clarify to the audience the historical reality that the Thirteenth Amendment passed by a very narrow margin that wasn’t determined until the end of the vote,” Kushner wrote. “The closeness of that vote and the means by which it came about was the story we wanted to tell.”
Kushner explained that he actually made up names for the Connecticut congressman who voted against the amendment, “so as not to ascribe any actions to actual persons who didn’t perform them.”
He added, “I hope nobody is shocked to learn that I also made up dialogue and imagined encounters and invented characters.”
Kushner also took a swipe at Courtney’s timing, writing, “I’m sorry if anyone in Connecticut felt insulted by these 15 seconds of the movie, although issuing a Congressional press release startlingly headlined 'Before The Oscars…' seems a rather flamboyant way to make that known.”
Lincoln is up for 12 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director and Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis). Kushner was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. It was actually screened in Congress in a rare show of bipartisanship with both Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in attendance.