Last week, Daniel Day-Lewis announced his retirement from acting. He’s got one final role to unleash on the world, an untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film in which he plays fashion designer Charles James, which comes out around Christmas. And then he’s done.
But is he DONE done? Or is he retiring like Michael Jordan retired from basketball? Or Jay-Z retired from rap? Day-Lewis is at the top of his game, where, in fairness, he has been for the past 30 years or so. It just seems to me that people who are both very good at\very passionate about what they do don’t retire, they keep doing the thing they love until they physically cannot do it anymore.
And it’s not like we would have noticed Day-Lewis’s absence had he simply taken a sabbatical. The man is notoriously reclusive and generally does only about one film every five years or so. After winning an Oscar for Lincoln in 2012 (which was the last time we’ve seen him on screen), he announced a hiatus during which he’d spend time on his farm in Dublin, learning “rural skills” like stonemasonry. You know, practical stuff. Between 1997’s The Boxer and 2002’s Gangs of New York, he left Hollywood to apprentice as a shoemaker in Italy. He’s obviously a curious man willing to try his hand at all kinds of pursuits. But quit acting?
Whether or not he eventually comes out of retirement for “one last role” I can’t help but feel this is the end of an era. DDL is the kind of actor who used those fallow periods to truly transform himself into his next character. When he did Lincoln, he stayed in character for 3 solid months; even Spielberg had to address him as Mr. President. To crawl so deeply beneath someone else’s skin must be quite draining and it’s no wonder that he’s needed such lengthy recovery times between films. But Hollywood has gotten away from this kind of acting, the total-immersion kind. Now people play versions of themselves. George Clooney, say, or Ryan Gosling: both very good actors, but if you think about it, they play versions of their charming, winking selves. Have we ever seen Clooney lose himself in a role, or even just play against type? Day-Lewis’s commitment to diving into a role completely is impressing, but is also probably a dying art. He’s only 60 but perhaps he is already a dinosaur in the industry. A super talented dinosaur who will be sadly missed.
What’s your favourite DDL role?
How long before he comes out of retirement?