Daniel Day-Lewis is breaking his silence on why he is retiring from acting after his upcoming film Phantom Thread. The legendary actor, who turned 60 in April, shocked the entertainment world in June when he issued a statement through his publicist that simply said, “Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor.” Noting how he “was immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences” throughout his career, there was no explanation for the sudden exit from the craft other than to say it was “a private decision.”
There’s no tidy way to sum up Day-Lewis’ career other than to say its been a spectacular run. Beginning his career with a role in the 1982 Best Picture Oscar winner Gandhi, Day-Lewis went on to capture an unprecedented three Best Actor Oscars, for 1989’s My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown, 1997’s There Will Be Blood, and 2012’s Lincoln. He was also nominated for two other Best Actor Oscars, for 1993’s In the Name of the Father and 2002’s Gangs of New York.
As it turns out, Day-Lewis started work on Phantom Thread – a drama about the fashion world circa 1950s London – with his There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson with no intentions of retiring, until something hit him during the making of the film. In an interview with W Magazine, Day-Lewis explained that part of the decision, at least, has something to do that he has no desire to – nor will ever – see the film. In the past, while Day-Lewis has taken long breaks between projects and flirted with the idea of retiring, he would view his films. He says hasn’t quite “figured it out” regarding his reason to retire, “But it’s settled on me, and it’s just there.” He adds:
Not wanting to see the film is connected to the decision I’ve made to stop working as an actor. But it’s not why the sadness came to stay. That happened during the telling of the story, and I don’t really know why. One of my sons is interested in musical composition, so I showed him the film Tous Les Matins du Monde, about the French composer Sainte-Colombe. My son was deeply struck by the sobriety that it took to create that work, Sainte-Colombe’s refusal to accept less than what was extraordinary from himself or anyone else. I dread to use the overused word ‘artist,’ but there’s something of the responsibility of the artist that hung over me. I need to believe in the value of what I’m doing. The work can seem vital. Irresistible, even. And if an audience believes it, that should be good enough for me. But, lately, it isn’t.”
While proclamations of retirement aren’t anything knew to the entertainment business (how many “Farewell Tours” have the Rolling Stones or Cher embarked on?”), Day-Lewis knew his commitment to stepping away from acting for good came with the statement that he was retiring. He says:
“I knew it was uncharacteristic to put out a statement, but I did want to draw a line. I didn’t want to get sucked back into another project. All my life, I’ve mouthed off about how I should stop acting, and I don’t know why it was different this time, but the impulse to quit took root in me, and that became a compulsion. It was something I had to do.”
While it sadly appears that this is it for Day-Lewis, the actor and his final film surely won’t go without notice. The drama, which is pegged for a Christmas Day release, has already started screening for critics in New York and will undoubtedly be an awards contender as the film is being released in time for critics and industry awards, and most importantly, for Oscar consideration.
There are very few times when people can so confidently predict that an actor will be nominated for an Academy Award sight-unseen, but it seems like a foregone conclusion that Day-Lewis will be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the sixth time. No matter if he wins or loses, it isn’t the point: an era of acting brilliance is about to come to an end.
Source: W Magazine
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