David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor.
No actress has matured before our eyes the way Sally Field has. Appearing on the scene first as a perky ingénue in two 1960s TV series—Gidget and The Flying Nun—she made an unexpected dramatic breakthrough in Sybil (1976), a made-for-TV movie that brought the genre newfound respect. From there it was a relatively short hop to her first Oscar, as an unlikely union leader in Norma Rae (1979). Then—for a good decade and a half—Field appeared in consistently solid material, including playing a single-minded reporter opposite Paul Newman in Absence Of Malice (1981) and Tom Hanks’ redoubtable mama in Forrest Gump (1994). Then, after a period out of the limelight, she reemerged on TV in 2006 to lead the Walker clan for five seasons on Brothers & Sisters. Earlier this year she played Aunt May in The Amazing Spider-Man, Sony’s reboot of its lucrative franchise. And now she claims her biggest—and most important—role in at least 20 years, as the mentally unstable wife of our 16th president in Steven Spielberg’s epic Lincoln, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the great man.
AwardsLine: What appealed to you about playing Mrs. Lincoln?
Sally Field: What doesn’t? I’d been looking out for her for a long time. She is one of the most underexamined, misunderstood, maligned, yet important women in American history. Had there not been a Mary Todd, there would not have been an Abraham Lincoln. She found him early on, and she was ambitious. She always said she was going to marry the president. She recognized his genius and said, “He’s the one. I will marry him, and he will be president.” She honed him. She was always his closet confidant—until they got to the White House. She was highly complicated but a very necessary and important part of his life. So, yes, she was someone I wanted to play.