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Tony Kushner to Congressman on Inaccuracy: ‘Lincoln’ Is Drama, Not History

The screenwriter hit back at criticism from Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney

Tony Kushner hit back on Friday at a Connecticut congressman who complained about historical inaccuracies in the Oscar-nominated "Lincoln," saying his factual tweaks added to the film's drama.

Getty ImagesOn Tuesday, Democratic Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney wrote an open letter to director Steven Spielberg, about the inaccuracies. In the film, two congressmen from his home state vote against 13th Amendment and two voted for — but  archives in the House of Representatives show that the entire Nutmeg State's delegation said "yea" to the abolition of slavery.

Also read: Connecticut Rep. to Steven Spielberg: Get Your Lincoln Facts Straight

In an open letter Friday in the Wall Street Journal, the screenwriter claimed artistic license.

"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," he wrote. "The closeness of that vote and the means by which it came about was the story we wanted to tell."

He said he disagrees that a work of historical fiction needs to adhere strictly to factual fidelity.

"Accuracy is paramount in every detail of a work of history. Here’s my rule: Ask yourself, 'Did this thing happen?' If the answer is yes, then it’s historical," he wrote. "Then ask, 'Did this thing happen precisely this way?' If the answer is yes, then it’s history; if the answer is no, not precisely this way, then it’s historical drama."

Courtney, however, argued in his letter that the depiction places his state "on the wrong side of history." He asked Spielberg and DreamWorks to issue a public correction before the Feb. 14 Oscars and amend the film before it is released on home video.

He acknowledged Kushner's concession in a statement on Friday but reiterated his call for a corrected version.

“I am pleased that Mr. Kushner conceded that his ‘Lincoln’ screenplay got it wrong on the Connecticut delegation’s votes for the 13th Amendment," he said in the statement. "This is a positive step toward that end, and I still hope a correction can be made in advance of the film’s DVD release."

DreamWorks did not immediately respond to questions from TheWrap about whether it would consider changing the film for the DVD.

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