Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Region gets a behind the scenes look at 'Lincoln' film
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Feb 15, 2013, 14:23

photo by Caitlin Davis Shelley Illmensee holds a makeup kit from the movie that was used on Daniel Day-Lewis to create the look of President Lincoln

In her hands, Shelley Illmensee, held a makeup palette that was used on Daniel Day- Lewis to create the face of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, portrayed in the film “Lincoln.” Illmensee, a freelance makeup artist in Richmond, served as the local production assistant for the makeup department for ‘Lincoln,’ and on Saturday at the Virginia Historical Society, she held a piece of history in her hands.

“It’s kind of an amazing part of history I think,” Illmensee said of the makeup kit, which was used to help create the aging process of Lincoln. “That this was actually one that was used, not just that this product was used but this particular palette was used on him.”

Hundreds gathered in the auditorium of the Virginia Historical Society on Saturday to view “The Making of Lincoln” documentary. The documentary showcased interviews with director Steven Spielberg, cast and crew of the film, and explored the world behind “Lincoln.”

After the documentary, audience members were able to continue the sneak peak into the movie through stories told by those, such as Illmensee, who were there during the 55 days of “Lincoln.”

Rita McClenney, President and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation in Richmond, told the audience on Saturday that the film was a “film of a lifetime.”
photo by Caitlin Davis A signed movie poster started the ‘Lincoln’ movie collection at the Virginia Historical Society

“It was a wild, wild ride,” McClenney said. “It is such a film about community and is a superior production.”

For McClenney, one story in particular struck her during filming and it was a story that occurred on the last day of production. At New Millennium Studios in Petersburg, Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg were closing in on their final hours together. McClenney said Spielberg turned to Daniel Day-Lewis and told him, “Mr. President, I will miss you,” to which Day-Lewis told Spielberg, “I will miss Abraham Lincoln.”

McClenney said that during filming, Day-Lewis stayed in character as the president, telling Spielberg and others on set to call him “Mr. President” even when the cameras stopped rolling.

Nicholas Batten, a museum associate at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, served as several extras in the film including a Union soldier, a “working man”, a petitioner, a sailor and perhaps one of the hardest for him, a Confederate soldier.

Batten said it was because of that role he began to understand the true meaning of the Civil War and what it meant to those standing on the battlefields.

“I never considered myself Southern,” Batten said. “I live in the south...but politics aside, I felt like a Southern boy fighting to preserve a way of life.”
photo by Caitlin Davis Heather Dawn Beattie, Museum Collections Manager, left and L. Paige Newman, Assistant Archivist hold up a banner of Daniel Day-Lewis as President Lincoln. The banner was donated to VHS.

John Witt, editor of The Richmond Times Dispatch, like Batten also served as several extras in the film including a Democratic congressman, a Republican congressman, a journalist, an abolitionist and a pastor.

“I got to experience all emotions you see in the movie,” Witt told the audience on Saturday of his many roles. “I got to sing, I got to cry, I got to do all those things.”

Illmensee echoed Witt’s sentiments saying at times it felt like everyone on set was living the Civil War and living the story of Lincoln.

“I was struck by how human everything was,” Illmensee said describing her emotions on set for those 55 days. “I think about what it comes down to and for that’s human nature. Lincoln was a father, a husband, and a man.”

It is the story of that man that Andrew Talkov, Head of Program Development at the Virginia Historical Society, was pleased to show to so many that Saturday afternoon.

“The turnout was far better than we had initially planned,” Talkov said. “I think the audience, Virginians and Richmonders and people in the Richmond region are still really kind of enamored that we were part of such an important film project and the audience was really excited to hear the behind the scene stories and to see the film and that was really kind of exciting to see.”
photo by Caitlin Davis Panelists discuss life on the set of ‘Lincoln.’ They discussed being an extra on the film, applying makeup to the actors and watching Steven Spielberg in action

Talkov said Dr. Emilie Raymond, who is in charge of the Virginia Commonwealth University Film Festival, reached out to the historical society to see if they would be interested in partnering up to show the documentary.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to partner with VCU to use our theater and to try and draw in an audience we may not usually be reaching. So I spoke with Dr. Raymond and she told me they were going to have this public showing of this “Making of Lincoln” movie no one had seen and I said, “we’re in,’” Talkov said, recalling how easy it was to say yes to hosting the film.
photo by Caitlin Davis Heather Dawn Beattie, Museum Collections Manager, holds a call sheet that was used on the set of ‘Lincoln.’

In addition to hosting the film, the historical society also began collecting pieces of memorabilia that cast, crews or extras had kept during the course of filming. After the screening of the documentary, audience members were able to see a makeup kit used on Day-Lewis, banners that served as the backdrop from the PBS Richmond forum,call sheets that were used on set and a signed movie poster from the forum, which started the collection. Talkov said even though the film wrapped filming in the area long ago, the effects are still felt through the entire Richmond and Tri-Cities, where most of Lincoln was filmed.

“I think we’re still all mildly star struck by the fact that this happened in our area,” Talkov said.

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