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New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has now jumped into the latest debate over historical accuracy in movies. In her column over the weekend, Dowd agreed with Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney that Steven Spielberg needs to make changes to Lincoln before it hits DVD.
Earlier this month, Courtney complained that Spielberg's film shows two Congressmen from his state voting against the amendment to end slavery. In fact, all four Connecticut Congressmen voted in favor of the amendment. Courtney called for Spielberg to fix this for the movie’s home video release.
However, a day later, screenwriter Tony Kushner, who based the film partly on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, defended the decision. In a letter, he said he made the decision to show how close the 13th Amendment vote was and that he changed characters’ names “so as not to ascribe any actions to actual persons who didn’t perform them.”
In her column, Dowd doesn’t accept that, noting how much research the filmmakers had done and wondering why this detail was changed.
“They were trying to be meticulously accurate even down to recording the ticking of Abraham Lincoln’s actual pocket watch,” Courtney told Dowd. “So why get a climactic scene so off base?”
Dowd writes that it is especially important that Spielberg fix this now that he’s sending copies to every school in the country.
“I’m a princess-and-the-pea on this issue, but I think Spielberg should refilm the scene or dub in ‘Illinois’ for ‘Connecticut’ before he sends out his DVDs and leaves students everywhere thinking the Nutmeg State is nutty,” she wrote.
Lincoln scored 12 Oscar nods, including Best Picture, Director and Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as the president.