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"One day I saw my neighbor pushing his garbage to the curb, and he had these crazy mutton chops," says Anya Mills, who quickly realized that he was appearing in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, being filmed in the area at the time. Struck by the juxtaposition between her neighbor's period facial hair and his modern surroundings, she contacted photographer Adam Ewing, whom she'd worked with through her job at the Martin Agency, to pitch a project they're now calling "Lincoln Hair."
By working their contacts and putting out a casting call through Craigslist, Mills gathered Lincoln extras — and a couple subjects who didn't appear in the film — willing to have their pictures taken in a style that evokes the work of famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady.
"We did a lot of research on the portraits," says Ewing, who offered his subjects specific directions to get the effect he was looking for. "I've figured out a way to emulate that look through the equipment I have now and a lot of Photoshop. It's my take on what it looked like — basically, I wrecked the pictures." You'll find six of the 14 resulting portraits below, along with information on the extras' Lincoln experiences.
Delethia Foxx/Slave A full-time student at VCU, Foxx was cast as an extra in Lincoln a week after an audition at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, where she learned an important requirement for her role: No weaves. "I had to have natural hair," she says with a laugh. The first person she called with the news after she'd been cast? Her mom in Bedford. "She was super, super excited. We both were." Foxx, who performs with It's Your Thang, a sketch-comedy group out of Midlothian, was on set for three days, all of them spent in a crowd of extras pleading with President Lincoln (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) to free the slaves. "Just being there, just experiencing it all and seeing it all, the huge cameras, the huge setup," Foxx says, "it was just awesome."
Silver Persinger/Republican congressman Persinger, who's no stranger to politics — he's currently running for mayor as a write-in candidate — played a Republican congressman in a pair of scenes filmed at the Virginia Capitol and the Executive Mansion. For the former, he and his fellow extras cheered or booed depending on who was speaking. During the latter, Persinger hit the jackpot, improvising dialogue with Daniel Day-Lewis while greeting him in a receiving line. (Ahead of him in line? Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell and one of her daughters, who were fellow extras.) Sadly, we'll probably never hear Persinger's performance. "I wasn't notified that I'd be getting the big check for a speaking role."
Oscar Logan/Servant, Union soldier The only time Logan witnessed Daniel Day-Lewis come close to being out of character during a shoot in Petersburg was during an break in filming, when the extras were talking about Day-Lewis' role as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. "He kind of smiled when we said that," says Logan .
Joshua Coleman/Violinist at Ford's Theatre, Confederate soldier He didn't interact with Lincoln's big stars on set, but Coleman ran into Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Lincoln's son, Robert, at Balliceaux. "We were the only two cats in the room who had worked on the movie, so it was something to talk over."
Cedric Giese/Dead Confederate soldier, Journalist "I grew a beard, and they were like, ‘We've got too many beards in this thing,' " says Giese, who played a clean-shaven journalist and a corpse, with a wound based on a Civil War photo. "You're lying on the ground and trying to get as much camera time as possible."
Paul Fian/Journalist "For one of the shots that he took, Spielberg had just the journalists in the frame, and he was right there with us," says Fian, who spent 10 days on set at the Virginia Capitol. "He just walked us through it — put down your pencils, now pick your hats up, start slamming your fists. It was pretty cool."