New ‘Lincoln’ footage added for overseas audiences

Lincoln (Photo: David James/DreamWorks)

The version of "Lincoln" that has Steven Spielberg's look at the 16th president's final months the presumptive Oscar favorite for Best Picture will not be the version that plays overseas, THR reports.

In an effort to transcend the commercial difficulties movies about U.S. history face in places other than the U.S., Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner worked with Fox International executives to re-edit and create new material to make the material more immediate for foreign audiences.

The new version replaces the opening battle scene with approximately a minute of material contextualizing the American Civil War for audiences not taught about it in social studies class. Multiple versions of this introductory material have been made for different territories featuring prominent local figures, among them cabinet minister Peter Mandelson in the UK, former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, and Czech revolutionary Martin Paulos. The introduction for Japanese release will feature Spielberg himself.

Films about U.S. history traditionally gross far less abroad than they do at home, for fairly obvious reasons; estimate, for example, the total U.S. box office for a biopic of 19th century Paraguayan president José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia (if, as a norteamericano, your first response was "who?" imagine your Paraguayan counterpart saying the same of "Lincoln" and you see the problem).

"Lincoln" recently passed the $150 million mark at the domestic box office. If it even approaches that number abroad it will be a sign that this initiative was a successful one, and could be a model for future U.S. history-themed releases.