Abe’s Honest Voice – How Daniel Day Lewis Captured Lincoln’s Voice

No one knows how Abraham Lincoln sounded. But history has it that his voice was high-pitched and nasal. While it was not pleasant to listen to, his sound was able to cut through the noise of large crowds. It has been said that his voice floated over the crowds which would have made him an orator who could be heard in a time when there were no microphone to amplify his voice.

Many actors have portrayed Abe Lincoln, but none even attempted to create his real voice, until now. Daniel Day Lewis worked to find a vocal quality that would have come not only from Abe’s home state but that captured what historians have said about his sound.  Daniel knew that finding Lincoln’s voice would be critical to finding his character. He has found a voice that is smaller than we might expect, a little more nasal and higher pitched.

As a consummate actor, Daniel did his homework and then listened within.  He tuned to his inner ear and he began to ‘hear” Abe’s voice in his head.

Listen to Daniel as Lincoln speak at the beginning of this video clip from CBS This Morning.

His voice is high, almost scratchy, resonating in the top of his head, not so much down in his chest.  Daniel uses a voice that floats upward in a way that inspires your thinking to elevate.  Brilliant!

I tell my speaking voice clients that the voice is a reflection of the psyche, the soul.  How we use our voice reflects how we allow energy to flow through the body, or not flow. And as we open the voice to resonate more fully and richly, our inner self becomes more fully feeling and expressive.

Daniel Day Lewis was using his voice to find a Lincoln that was mental, in his head and connected to a sense of inspiration. Lincoln historian agrees that Lewis may have come as close as possible to capturing Lincoln’s vocal quality.

Here is another video from CBS This Morning with interviews of Lincoln historians commenting on Lewis vocal interpretation.