Steven Spielberg: ‘Lincoln Almost Became A TV Movie’

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June 13, 2013 | 8:46pm EST

Movie mogul Steven Spielberg was almost forced to release his Oscar-winning epic Lincoln as a TV film after struggling to win support from executives at major movie studios.
The director had even entered talks with bosses at network HBO to fund the historical drama about assassinated former President Abraham Lincoln after being turned away by big-name production firms – because they were only interested in big-budget, mainstream projects.
Spielberg made the revelation on Wednesday, during a ceremony to mark the opening of the University of Southern California’s Interactive Media Building, where he appeared alongside fellow film icon George Lucas.
Commenting on the “much more adventurous” range of projects now appearing on cable TV, the Star Wars icon said, “I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they’re going to be on television”, prompting Spielberg to interject, “As mine almost was. This close – ask HBO – this close.”
Lucas continued, “We’re talking Lincoln and Red Tails – we barely got them into theatres. You’re talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can’t get their movie into a theatre… The pathway to get into theatres is really getting smaller and smaller.”
But Spielberg is convinced the current box office domination of costly blockbusters will soon come to an end, paving the way for the return of more niche projects: “There’s eventually going to be an implosion – or a big meltdown. There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground (flop at the box office), and that’s going to change the paradigm.”
Lucas famously fought with studio executives to get his World War II action-adventure movie Red Tails – about America’s first black military pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen – distributed in 2011.
Lincoln was eventually distributed by Disney in North America and 20th Century Fox for the rest of the world, and went on to claim two Oscars, including Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis’ critically-acclaimed performance as the iconic leader.