Actor Daniel Day-Lewis is largely regarded as one of the greatest actors the film industry has seen. His many accolades, and the massive respect from his peers, helped further support his iconic status. But if there’s one thing that some admire about Lewis it’s his commitment to method acting.
Many in the entertainment industry have spoken candidly about Lewis’ habit of immersing himself into his character. But Lewis pointed out one problem he had with celebrities trading stories about his craft.
Daniel Day-Lewis once revealed he went mad from his own method-acting
Day-Lewis has been known for his ability to truly immerse himself in his characters. His level of method-acting isn’t a secret, as he’s put in an enormous effort to prepare for his roles. But it’s because the artist strives for perfection and accuracy that the three-time Oscar-winner pushes himself as far as he does.
“You go to these great lengths to imagine another world and time and imagine a man, like [There Will Be Blood’s Daniel Plainview], living in those times – and having spent your imagination on that, it seems more fun to live there all the time than jumping in and out,” Day-Lewis once said in an interview with Independent. “That is the playground you’ve created, so why not stay there and play? It gets rid of that notion of playing between times, which often people talk about – waiting for the next shot. I don’t buy that. Whatever you can do to give yourself a sense of continuity can only add to the work.”
Day-Lewis maintained his energy as a method actor with his role as William Cutting in Gangs of New York. Co-starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Lewis played the ruthless leader of an anti-immigration gang. And it was a role that even Day-Lewis admitted he might have gone too far on.
“I had to do my preparation,” he said. “And I will admit that I went mad, totally mad. I remembered the days of fighting on the Millwall terraces and they stood me in good stead for Bill the Butcher. He was a bit of a punk, a marvellous character and a joy to be – but not so good for my physical or mental health.”
Why Daniel Day-Lewis had a problem with other actors discussing his method-acting
Day-Lewis was well aware of how some in the industry perceived his method-acting. Although several actors admired the star’s work ethic, others might not have agreed. But Day-Lewis didn’t mind the negative opinions.
“For me, it seems obvious, as that is what I do,” he said. “And I think, ‘Well, if people think it’s odd, then what can I do?'”
Still, however, Day-Lewis opened up that it was never his plan to appear secretive about his craft. His method-acting was just often difficult to talk about because of the reputation surrounding it.
“I didn’t go looking for that. It was not my intention to create a specious air of mystery about what I do,” Day-Lewis once told Time (via Contact Music). “I’ve been reluctant to talk about how I work because I don’t feel one should talk about it. But the problem is a lot of other people then talk about it and by a process of Chinese whispers it sounds like some strange satanic ritual is taking place with the whole thing about immersion.”
Why Daniel Day-Lewis gave up on acting
Day-Lewis retired from the big screen fairly recently, with his last role being the Oscar-nominated Phantom Thread. Lewis had been mulling about retiring for quite some time, but shared that he’d often reconsider the decision. But this time he was determined to follow through on his retirement. To solidify his choice, Day-Lewis decided to announce his retirement to the world.
“I knew it was uncharacteristic to put out a statement,” Day-Lewis said in an interview with W Magazine. “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.”
At the time, the Lincoln star confided that his retirement came with a great feeling of sadness. But he welcomed the feeling as he was gearing up to venture onto the next arc in his life.
“And that’s the right way to feel. How strange would it be if this was just a gleeful step into a brand-new life. I’ve been interested in acting since I was 12 years old, and back then, everything other than the theater—that box of light—was cast in shadow. When I began, it was a question of salvation. Now, I want to explore the world in a different way,” he said.