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    Tony Kushner Responds to Congressman's Lincoln Criticism, Says Film Is Faithful

    Steven Spielberg, Tony Kushner Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    Tony Kushner has some fightin' words for the congressman who accused him and Steven Spielberg of fudging certain facts in their Oscar-nominated Lincoln.

    In an open letter published in Friday's Wall Street Journal, the acclaimed playwright fired back at Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney, defending his artistic right as the film's screenwriter to change certain details about how President Abraham Lincoln was able to push through the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, saying it was necessary for drama's sake.

    Courtney had pointed out that the film erred by portraying legislators from his state as having voted against the 1865 Amendment when in actuality all four members of the Connecticut delegation supported it. He also called on the filmmakers to correct the discrepancies before it's released to DVD, but Kushner wasn't having it.

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    "We changed two of the delegation's votes, and we made up new names for the men casting those votes, so as not to ascribe any actions to actual persons who didn't perform them," wrote Kushner. "These alterations were made to clarify to the audience the historical reality that the Thirteenth Amendment passed by a very narrow margin that wasn't determined until the end of the vote. The closeness of that vote and the means by which it came about was the story we wanted to tell. In making changes to the voting sequence, we adhered to the time-honored and completely legitimate standards for the creation of historical drama, which is what Lincoln is."

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Angels in America added cheekily, "I hope nobody is shocked to learn that I also made up dialogue and imagined encounters and invented characters."

    Kushner went on to express pride in the movie's faithfulness to the historical record in spite of such inventions, noting the praise Lincoln's received from many Lincoln scholars. He also took issue with Courtney's suggestion that Connecticut backed abolition wholesale, citing a Civil War historian who noted that the state was indeed split on the issue.

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    But according to the Munich scribe, the point was to engage the audience and draw them into the subject. He then suggested that the congressman's intentions were less about correcting the historical record than scoring a little publicity for himself among his constituents.

    "I'm sorry if anyone in Connecticut felt insulted by these 15 seconds of the movie, although issuing a Congressional press release startlingly headlined 'Before the Oscars…' seems a rather flamboyant way to make that known," concluded Kushner. "I'm deeply heartened that the vast majority of moviegoers seem to have understood that this is a dramatic film and not an attack on their home state."

    For the full text of the letter, click here.

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