“Lincoln” Storytellers Make Return Visit to RVA 

click to enlarge The audience of 4,200 people was the largest in the 27-year history of the Richmond Forum, with high-school students watching via live feed. - ANGELO MINOR/RICHMOND FORUM
  • Angelo Minor/Richmond Forum
  • The audience of 4,200 people was the largest in the 27-year history of the Richmond Forum, with high-school students watching via live feed.

Somewhere in Petersburg there's a missing Boy Scout penknife that belongs to the most famous film director in the world — and he wants it back.

Whoever finds that Roosevelt Council penknife, which Spielberg has owned since childhood, probably can expect a lifetime key to some kind of Wonkaland, where you can swim all day in celluloid rivers with extra-terrestrials, computer-generated dinosaurs and mechanical sharks with black gumdrop eyes — dolls' eyes, perhaps.

Well, maybe not — but you will get on television if you find Steven Spielberg's favorite penknife. That's for sure.

That's one of the takeaways from Saturday night's Richmond Forum at the Landmark Theater. Spielberg returned to town for a lively two-hour-plus discussion of "Lincoln," shot entirely in and around Richmond and Petersburg in fall 2011. He was joined by Pulitzer-winning playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who spent a decade writing the book "Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," on which Kushner based the film script, which took him six years to write.

"I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing than talking about this here with you tonight," Spielberg said, noting that "Lincoln" was his most "restrained" film as a director. "To put the words and performances ahead of my art ... I learned so much about myself as a filmmaker."

"My favorite part was when they passed the 13th Amendment," quipped Petersburg filmmaker and actor Tim Reid, who served as moderator. He also noted that certain historically significant sites in Petersburg, which Kushner said he found to be in a depressingly run-down state, were becoming tourist spots because of the film.
Since opening in November, "Lincoln" has grossed more than $140 million domestically and is considered an Oscar frontrunner.

The director, who received roughly $3.5 million in state tax subsidies, tossed Gov. Bob McDonnell a bone. "He called me on the phone and talked about a kind of healing thing this could have — on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line," Spielberg said. "That made me feel he was a mindful person and it would be comfortable in this state."

Another remark by Goodwin clearly moved Spielberg and had the director rubbing her arm. "Lincoln was able to make these people do something they couldn't do individually — that's the mystery of leadership," she said. "For God's sake, if there's anything that in this film that could be a symbol for the future, we've got to do it again."

The last audience question of the night: "When you're picking up your well-deserved Golden Globes and Oscars, how about a shout out to your friends in Richmond?"


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