Stephen Spielberg at the Dublin premiere of Lincoln: "The film is really about the power and responsibility of leadership."

A bitterly cold Sunday in January was brightened considerably last week when the stars and director of the acclaimed new movie, Lincoln, came to town to support a cause close to the heart of lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

The European premiere of Lincoln at the Savoy Theatre on O’Connell Street, and a special post-screening dinner and charity auction, were held in aid of the Wicklow Hospice Foundation, a fundraising organisation of which Day-Lewis, Katie Taylor and Chris de Burgh are among the patrons.

Wicklow-resident Daniel’s mother passed away in a palliative care centre in England and was moved to support the campaign for the creation of a similar facility in his adopted county.

Speaking at the premiere, Day-Lewis said: “I’m really grateful people turned out for this. We’ve been doing benefits like this for a while, but with the economic situation at the moment, we were not sure an event like this would be possible. But we explored it a little bit and it turned out we could do it. Hospices are vital facilities that every county needs. We need these places, and we need to take care of people in the late stages of their lives.”

The screening and gala event afterwards are believed to have raised over €250,000 for the foundation, bringing it ever closer to its fundraising target of €3 million.

Director Stephen Spielberg explained how he came to debut his latest film in Dublin.

“Daniel really believed in the cause, and once he explained it to me, I believed in it as well. I’m very close to Ireland. I made Private Ryan here, and it’s a film close to my and Tom Hanks’ heart, and that was my introduction to the culture. It was such a wonderful experience; we have come back to Ireland time and again ourselves, myself and my wife and children.

“Daniel didn’t have to convince me for long to bring the European premiere here. He threw it out as a possibility, and I said we should commit to it now, it was a great idea.”

The film tells the story of the passing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that abolished slavery at a time when the country was in the midst of the Civil War, which lasted for four years and claimed the lives of 750,000 citizens.

Lincoln himself was committed to the reunification of the country at a time of extreme division, and his belief in democracy, the constitution and America helped to deliver peace and emancipation to the nation. Sadly, he only lived to see a few days beyond the end of the civil war before he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

The film has been roundly hailed as another Spielberg masterpiece, and the lead role appears to have been one that Day-Lewis was born to play.

In the movie, Day-Lewis utterly inhabits the title role as the iconic leader Abraham Lincoln, which has led to him being tipped for more Oscar glory come February 24. Spielberg was fulsome in his praise of the actor.

“I’m so grateful Daniel agreed to play Abraham Lincoln. I never imagined anyone could play Lincoln other than Daniel. I approached him three times over a five-year period, and, eventually, he said yes.

“We had to get the research right. Lincoln is the most compelling figure on the American national landscape. He saved the American experiment in democracy, and pretty much saved the constitution. He didn’t do it alone, a lot of people helped him do what he did.

“We’re only telling a small part of the gigantic Lincoln story, on the last four months of his life, but it’s enough of an intimate focus to give you a real idea who he was as a human being,” said Spielberg.

Although the movie documents a very specific and significant moment in American history, Spielberg said that he felt there was a message in the movie for an international audience.

“The film is really about the power and responsibility of personal, intimate leadership. It’s about a leader who was one of the people. There was no firewall between him and the people who elected him, and no firewall between him and the compassion he had for the people of the United States of America, and the tremendous anguish and mourning [he felt] for the war that took more lives than all of the American wars combined.

“I think it’s a great story, he’s one of the most amazing characters in global history. Every country has a Lincolnian figure who was inspirational and did great things in its formation or during a crisis, and everyone can relate to Lincoln, based on figures from their own nation.”