Travel: Following Lincoln's Footsteps
It took Steven Spielberg more than 10 years to research his latest film Lincoln – and by that time Liam Neeson felt he would be too old for the lead role. Daniel Day-Lewis was the only other actor Spielberg would consider to play the 16th US president, so once the contract was signed he had some serious catching up to do.
The actor moved to Richmond, Virginia, to immerse himself in the role of Abraham Lincoln.
Richmond became the capital of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. The region saw many bloody battles and Day-Lewis found an echo of the past on every corner of this historic town.
Sporting a beard for the role, Day-Lewis got into character by walking alongside the James River where Lincoln and his son, Tad, had arrived by boat the day after Richmond had fallen to the Union Army, on April 3, 1865.
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Day-Lewis followed Lincoln's route to the White House of the Confederacy, in the centre of Richmond, now a symbol of southern pride. It was from here that Lincoln's defeated rival, Jefferson Davis, had fled south.
The 55-year-old actor spent hours alone in the study where Lincoln had sat at his rival's desk, contemplating how the president must have felt at that time – exhausted, but knowing victory was surely in reach.
Day-Lewis was to learn that, when the 6ft 4in president walked through Richmond, African-Americans surrounded him, bowing and thanking him for their freedom.
Lincoln told them: "Kneel only to God and thank him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy."
Lincoln had passed the Shockoe district, where tobacco warehouses were used as stores by day, while by night they doubled as slave auction houses.
The actor began to understand the strength Lincoln had needed to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery.
Richmond had been the largest slave trading centre on the East side of America, where thousands of men, women and children were transported from the African state of Benin via Liverpool, to supply plantations in the Deep South.
Today, tourists can visit the Reconciliation Memorial on a Slave Trail route alongside the James River.
Lincoln's next stop during his visit to Richmond was to the Virginia State Capitol.
This government building, the first public property in the New World to resemble a Roman classical temple, was taken over by Spielberg's team and transformed to represent The White House, in Washington.
If you have seen the film by the time you visit, the state house chamber will be instantly recognisable.
It doubles as the US House of Representatives, where the 13th Amendment debate and vote were filmed.
While Sally Field, who played Lincoln's wife Mary, moved into the five-star Jefferson Hotel, Day-Lewis became a regular at The Hill Café at the top of Church Hill, where he rented a property.
He also frequented the Can Can Brasserie, on a smart 1950s shopping parade in Cary Street, and Arcadia restaurant in Shockoe Bottom, where the tobacco warehouses are now fashionable shops and cafés.
Petersburg, a 20-mile drive south from Richmond, retains an old quarter with 19th century weather-boarded houses.
Outside scenes of "Richmond" were filmed here.
No filming took place in Washington, but this tour would not be complete without sightseeing in the Capitol city – 100 miles north and a two-hour drive along Interstate 95, if you avoid rush hour.
An assassination walking tour (which rather gives away the story) starts opposite The White House and winds through the city to Ford's Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated.
Lincoln and his wife were watching a performance of Our American Cousin when John Wilkes Booth burst into the president's box and shot him in the head. Lincoln was taken across the road to Petersen House, where he died the next morning.
The theatre, closed for almost a century, has now been preserved as a national historic site with an education centre and museum alongside.
Here you can see re-enactments of that fateful evening and artefacts including the 44-caliber Derringer gun that was used by John Wilkes Booth.
Look out for the 34ft tower of books, which contains 15,000 titles about Lincoln, symbolising the never-ending intrigue about the first US president to be assassinated.
Lincoln's top hat is in the National Museum of American History, while in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Hall of Presidents, his portrait by George P A Healy takes centre stage.
A night-time bike ride around the city's illuminated memorials really brings home what Lincoln means to America. It's well worth making a stop on the steps of the cavernous Lincoln Memorial, where almost 50 years ago Dr Martin Luther King Jnr delivered his "I have a dream" speech and four years ago Barack Obama made his inaugural "We are One" address to the nation.