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Watch Tony Kushner Explain Why Lincoln Isn't Gay In 'Lincoln': VIDEO

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Some are disappointed that Tony Kushner didn't address rumors that Abraham Lincoln was gay in the screenplay for the new movie Lincoln. While Kushner is well aware of the rumors, and in fact believes there's some credence to them, he felt the movie should instead focus on a "specific moment" in time.

"I don't feel that there was any evidence at this particular moment that Lincoln was having sex with anybody," Kushner tells Tom O'Neil in the video AFTER THE JUMP. "He seems to have not slept and taken no time off during this period …. I don't say in my movie whether the Lincoln character was gay or straight. You can ask Daniel (Day-Lewis) what he was playing, but it did not seem to me a thing to make a movie about now."

As for the Lincoln was gay rumors, Kushner said, "I personally believe that there is some reason to speculate that Lincoln might have been bisexual or gay." One of the reasons is that Lincoln shared a bed with his bodyguard, prompting gossip that the men were involved. But even if Lincoln was indeed playing for the other team, Kushner has no doubt that he and wife Mary Todd were deeply in love.

"These two people loved each other," said Kushner. "It wouldn't be the first time that a gay man and a straight woman hooked up and had a great marriage. But I don't know. I really don't know."

Watch Kushner and O'Neill discuss Lincoln's sexuality and the new movie AFTER THE JUMP.

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Comments

  1. I think we need to be very careful that we don't apply early-21st century homophobia to male behavior in America in the 1800s, but not in the way you might think. It was common during this period for men to share beds. Sometimes other things happened, sometimes not. But it proves nothing. It was common for men to have deep, loving friendships, and to speak of that love openly and often- just read their letters. Photos of the time frequently show male friends in what we might consider very intimate poses. All of that changed beginning around the turn of the century. Western society has spent the last hundred years telling men that those kinds of friendships between men are wrong, and possibly gay, so now when we hear that Lincoln had those kinds of friendships, we automatically call those relationships into question.

    For more info:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexuality_of_Abraham_Lincoln#Co-sleeping

    Posted by: Eric | Nov 15, 2012 9:27:52 AM


  2. This is the standard Hollywood game of white washing and sugar coating history in order to serve the box office.
    That Kushner is playing along with it makes me sad.

    Posted by: Wilberforce | Nov 15, 2012 9:40:59 AM


  3. You think Tony Kushner, writer of Angels in America would whitewash something? Hahahaha hahahaha get over it. If he believed it, he'd write it and say it.

    Posted by: Jerry | Nov 15, 2012 9:45:09 AM


  4. Yeah, I've heard that argument made to an extent that we are supposed to believe that there were NO gay people prior to the 20th century only "friendships" that we mistake for homosexuality. The fact of the matter is there actually were homosexual people in the 19th, 18th, 17th... centuries and 99.9% of people with homosexual orientations lived as "straight" people and the rest lived as "straight" "confirmed bachelors".

    And I've seen very little evidence that powerful and wealthy straight men shared beds with men. The men who shared beds did so because there were more men than beds (i.e. military, poor bachelors, large poor households, etc.) Sharing a bed in the White House was most definitely WAY out of the ordinary.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Nov 15, 2012 9:45:45 AM


  5. The fact is, no one will ever know if Abraham Lincoln was bisexual. It would all be conjecture at this point, so it's best to be left out of the movie.

    Posted by: BEAHBEAH | Nov 15, 2012 9:54:59 AM


  6. @TampaZeke

    There isn't any evidence that he ever shared a bed in the White House as you state. The closes evidence we have is one oral account that was claimed to have happened at the "Summer White House," a cottage at the Soldiers' Home just outside the city limits of the capital:

    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860.0027.205?rgn=main;view=fulltext

    Posted by: Eric | Nov 15, 2012 10:19:06 AM


  7. I had wondered wherher the movie would straight-wash Lincoln, and I'm disappointed that Kuschner seems to have done so.
    I'm not saying that he should be portrayed as gay per se. But Lincoln for years slept with Joshua Speed and shared his life with him, and when the two had to separate, Lincoln wrote him love letters that could have made Scarlet O'Hara blush.
    Does that mean he was gay? No. Bisexual or straight? No. It doesn't suggest anything but what it was.
    I just don't want a movie to over-heterosexualize history so we can go on pretending that nobody even MIGHT have been gay back then.
    Just once I'd like to see a movie in which Lincoln comes home to sit by the fireplace with Joshua Speed and sleep with him and wake up next to him and be distraught when they can't be together.... Because that was reality.

    Posted by: GregV | Nov 15, 2012 10:24:41 AM


  8. Interestingly enough, watching "Lincoln" I felt that there was an underlying (and perhaps unspoken) love between Lincoln and the character played by Joseph Cross. So clearly that was either my interpretation or the way they acted, now that Kushner has said there was no subtext. And I'm glad there wasn't any since it is still unproven as a theory.

    Posted by: Larry | Nov 15, 2012 10:26:21 AM


  9. I don't think this was "straight-washing" or any such nonsense. The movie doesn't appear to be any kind of a romantic film!
    Jerry above mentions this director did Angels in America - he is pretty fearless.
    And Eric's comments above are the most insightful and on-point I've seen. It was a very different era.
    I doubt this director did ANYTHING in the movie without serious and thoughtful consideration, and he explains himself eloquently.

    Posted by: Lucas H | Nov 15, 2012 10:34:57 AM


  10. Kushner says it fully and best: we don't know. That's it. Shut up.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Nov 15, 2012 10:57:33 AM


  11. It's clear the people complaining about whitewashing/straightwashing have not actually seen the film. The film is about Lincoln's efforts to get the 13th Amendment passed by the House of Representatives. Other than a beautifully written and acted scene that capsulized his complicated relationship with Mary regarding her grief/growing mental illness, the movie doesn't focus much on the President's personal life.

    If someone isn't planning on seeing the film because they are annoyed that Lincoln isn't portrayed as gay or bisexual, I would encourage them to put that aside and see it. It's a beautiful film, Tony Kushner's script is wonderful, and Daniel Day-Lewis is extraordinary. I felt like I was watching Lincoln come back to life. Not the stereotypical idea of him as a deep-voiced, larger than life figure, but the frontier-raised, self-educated man who turned out to be a master politician. Can't wait to see it again.

    Posted by: Robert | Nov 15, 2012 10:58:43 AM


  12. I do think there is *some* basis for conjecture about Lincoln's sexuality but it IS only conjecture. This film is about a very narrow slice of his life but one that's well documented so to add that in would be gratuitous and distract from the rest of the film.

    That said, gay historians are placed in a damned if you do, damned if you don't bind when it comes to suggesting that certain American historical figures were gay. No matter how much suggestive evidence they find that someone might have had sexual and/or romantic relationships with others of the same sex, if they can't produce a letter where that person said "Gosh, I sure do enjoy putting my penis inside you and wiggling it about" they're going to be accused of making things up.

    Posted by: Caliban | Nov 15, 2012 11:35:22 AM


  13. as far as the gay rumors...WHO CARES? We have plenty of openly gay role models to look up to. So... not caring whethe or not Abe lincoln had sex with men.

    Posted by: Alexander | Nov 15, 2012 11:44:17 AM


  14. GregV, I encourage you to make such a film. I'd go see it. But as other people have noted, Kushner and Spielberg's LINCOLN is about a specific time in his life where adding something like that wouldn't have made any artistic sense.

    Posted by: Huntington | Nov 15, 2012 11:53:30 AM


  15. http://fablog.ehrensteinland.com/2012/11/15/abraham-lincoln-shirt-lifter/

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Nov 15, 2012 11:55:15 AM


  16. Oh, now we have the 'specific time' dodge. That's new. But after decades of Hollywood re-writing history, it also fails.
    Isn't it interesting that from all the fascinating times of his life, from his rise in the backwater, to his self study, to his struggle for the Presidency, to his penning The Address, they choose this narrow time slot.
    And a title like Lincoln would seem to indicate an epic story. But then they would have had to include things that would hurt the box office.
    I'm sorry. Hollywood by now is just too tranparant.

    Posted by: Wilberforce | Nov 15, 2012 12:32:21 PM


  17. Again, this film focuses on an important time in history, and in Lincoln's life- as Tony Kushner said. And w really didn't sleep much- he was always a hard-worker, and every Lincoln historian noted this.

    Yea, there's a possibility he might've been gay or bi- there's been gay, bi, lesbian individuals since time began; however, he might've been conflicted and never acted in those feelings. Yes, he wrote amazingly tender letters to Speed- and slept with him- but as another poster pointed out, he did that when he was in his 20's, and many poor men did that in those days. And yes, standards for male interaction and friendships were much different then, and a lot of straight men wrote and acted the same way.


    As someone said- this is conjecture, and that can lead anywhere- we don't know. It would be amazing to know for sure that Lincoln played or our team, but a lot of other amazing (and horrible!) people have and we know for sure about them. I think if we want some amazing leaders, who are kind, intelligent, brave, self-sacrificing, and hard-working, the onus is upon us. We have to step up and be those leaders- be the change we want to see in the world.

    Posted by: Scott | Nov 15, 2012 12:44:56 PM


  18. Again, this film focuses on an important time in history, and in Lincoln's life- as Tony Kushner said. And w really didn't sleep much- he was always a hard-worker, and every Lincoln historian noted this.

    Yea, there's a possibility he might've been gay or bi- there's been gay, bi, lesbian individuals since time began; however, he might've been conflicted and never acted in those feelings. Yes, he wrote amazingly tender letters to Speed- and slept with him- but as another poster pointed out, he did that when he was in his 20's, and many poor men did that in those days. And yes, standards for male interaction and friendships were much different then, and a lot of straight men wrote and acted the same way.


    As someone said- this is conjecture, and that can lead anywhere- we don't know. It would be amazing to know for sure that Lincoln played or our team, but a lot of other amazing (and horrible!) people have and we know for sure about them. I think if we want some amazing leaders, who are kind, intelligent, brave, self-sacrificing, and hard-working, the onus is upon us. We have to step up and be those leaders- be the change we want to see in the world.

    Posted by: Scott | Nov 15, 2012 12:44:57 PM


  19. I'm sorry but Mary Lincoln was borderline psychotic. She was unsupportive, dismissive and even psychologically abusive towards Lincoln (based on several literature and biographies about the Lincolns by reputable historians). Kushner should just be honest and say that he doesn't want to piss off the American people with his film (it's all about the revenue) by portraying what was indeed the reality.
    If a man revealed that he spent years sleeping in the same bed with another man today, I do not think there will be any doubt or debate about his (homo or bi) sexuality. Lincoln allegedly did that with more than 1 man, regardless whether the bed-sharing was sexual in nature or not.
    Perhaps even Lincoln did not know that he was gay or bisexual since those terms did not exist back then. But to deny the fact the he had feelings towards men is simply not a true representation of history.

    Posted by: gayalltheway | Nov 15, 2012 1:32:34 PM


  20. Why can't straight guys have emotional closeness with other men? So gay separatist!
    No wonder equal rights are taking so long in the U.S.!

    Posted by: Alan Brickman | Nov 15, 2012 6:22:40 PM


  21. Lincoln lived in a time before central heating. If he chose not to sleep alone, I can understand that. And in a less prurient time, he could share his bed with men and not imply adulterous intent.

    As to what actually happened in those beds, only his laundress knows for sure.

    Posted by: Rich | Nov 16, 2012 4:14:34 AM


  22. What CA Tripp proved in his book about Lincoln is that every biographer of Lincoln from Sandburg on down selectively ignored Lincoln's intimate correspondence with Joshua Speed and Edwin Didrickson. Gore Vidal agrees, likely gay by today's standards.

    And no, Grant, Lee, and other leaders did not sleep with soldiers or share beds with them even in the summer, or write them love letters.

    Other men refer to women constantly in their correspondence, as desirable and much needed. Totally absent in Lincoln's voluminous writings. QED

    Posted by: Rob | Nov 16, 2012 6:36:38 AM


  23. FWIW, here's Doris Kearns Goodwin's response to the "Was Lincoln gay" question.

    http://www.kpbs.org/news/2010/oct/26/our-gay-president/

    Basically she says we can't really know, but part of her answer is, to me at least, very suggestive.

    "Women had to be chaperoned and you couldn’t be in a room with an unmarried man by yourself or even a married man who wasn’t your husband – men-men or women-women developed these intense friendships."

    The same thing is true in the Middle East today and due to that homosexual activity is actually quite common though publicly scorned. When women are unavailable due to cultural norms, men don't suddenly become celibate saints. They find an outlet for it, often each other, which isn't the same thing as being "gay."

    Posted by: Caliban | Nov 16, 2012 10:04:01 AM


  24. I think it is very important that we don't fall into the "oh, people were different in the 19th century TRAP." Many discount the fact that Lincoln slept with his lovers, esp. Joshua Speed, and wrote very effusive letters to him (and a few others). Human nature is always the same, no matter which century you live in. We always express our love in the same way. It is naive and a lie to say that people were different back then. Lincoln had an important relationship with Speed. It wasn't what we would call GAY, but it was a loving homosexual relationship, from all historical evidence. Having Lincoln as part of our Gay Political History is monumental. It will change thousands of minds/attitudes toward us and our whole history through the ages.

    Posted by: mmazzamm | Nov 17, 2012 2:35:12 AM


  25. Tony Kushner appears to be one of these creepy sell-outs who has censored or avoided showing Lincoln sleeping with a man because he got his orders from someone higher up. I wouldn't be surprised if Spielberg or some other liberals ordered it not be shown. Hollywood liberals are notoriously homophobic.

    Let's just hope that Lincoln flops. Kushner deserves it.

    Posted by: jason | Nov 17, 2012 9:16:24 AM


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