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'Lincoln' actor talks drama at his alma mater

January 30, 2013

PAWTUCKET — It's not every day that an actor in a cameo gets a compliment in front of his peers from the legendary movie director Steven Spielberg. It's even rarer when that actor with the impressive voice hails from Pawtucket.
City native and veteran Broadway actor Gannon McHale (born William J. McHale), got the thrill of a lifetime last year playing a small but pivotal role as Aaron Haddam in Spielberg's Oscar-nominated movie “Lincoln.” Visiting in Rhode Island earlier this week, he made time to relay his experiences and dispense some advice to a group of drama students at his alma mater, St. Raphael Academy.
While he's used to being in the limelight himself, McHale spoke of being reduced to the role of “adoring fan” during the filming of one of his scenes. After he had delivered his lines in his rich baritone, he said that Spielberg, watching from the back of the set, singled him out and said, “I just have to tell you, I love your voice.” “I didn't know what to say,” admitted McHale, “But I replied, 'Thank you. Please feel free to utilize it whenever you wish, Mr. Spielberg!'”
McHale described the award-winning Hollywood director as “warm, wonderful, and kind,” and said he arrived at the set every day dressed in a jacket and tie, but also wearing his trademark sneakers and baseball cap. He said Spielberg also helped established a tone on the set of his Civil War-era movie by addressing the actors by their character names. “He called Daniel Day Lewis (who plays Abraham Lincoln) ‘Mr. President’ and called me ‘Mr. Haddam,’” said McHale.
The actors had also been encouraged to grow out their hair, beards and mustaches for several months prior to the filming to look as historically accurate as possible.

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