Most Famous Works: My Left Foot (1989), In the Name of the Father (1993), There Will Be Blood (2007)
There are two things you can do if you want to train to become an actor: 1) go to theater school or 2) watch every movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis. If the man isn’t the greatest actor alive, then I can’t say who is. Each of his performances are stellar, pitch perfect embodiments of the characters he portrays. He has given us such memorable screen portrayals as the cerebral palsy painter Christie Brown in My Left Foot, the framed Irishman Gerry Conlon in In the Name of the Father and the megalomaniac oil baron Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. While yes, all these characters are quite different in range, they are all joined together by Day-Lewis’ signature acting methods and trademark delivery that makes every line of dialogue ooze with perfection.
Based on his talent, you’d think Daniel broke into the industry over night. Even as an unknown, what casting director would be able to deny the talent that is Daniel Day-Lewis? However, like most actors the man’s early resume exemplifies that his trip to the top was no easy feat. Before his 1985 breakout role in A Room with a View, Daniel Day-Lewis had only gotten a tiny number of roles in a filmography that stretched back to 1971. Yet once he broke into the industry, he was unstoppable and his success in the in film is mostly attributed to his unique approach to method acting. Unlike other actors of his generation, Day-Lewis does not simply become his character when the director shouts action. Day-Lewis immerses himself into his roles completely, choosing to not break character from the start of shooting until rap time – no matter what the role demanded of him. In The Last of the Mohicans, Day-Lewis camped out in the wilderness for six months learning to hunt and live in isolation. In Gangs of New York, Day-Lewis spoke in his New York accent throughout the duration of filming and even refused modern medical treatment when he contracted pneumonia. In My Left Foot, Day-Lewis famously portrayed the cerebral palsy Christie Brown, going so far as to have the crew push him around set in a wheel chair and give interviews in character. For Gangs of New York, Day-Lewis was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, for My Left Foot, he won.
I acted in plays in high school, and I must say that the will it takes to stay in character on a film set requires more discipline and determination than I can possibly imagine. Day-Lewis’ approach to method acting is the stuff of legend and with so much talent it’s not hard to see why he seems to crush every role he’s in – regardless of how good the movie turns out to be. Since he completed The Boxer in 1996, Day-Lewis has put himself into “semi-retirement”, choosing only to make a movie an average every three years or so. Some people may call it laziness, but I strongly admire his career decision. I’d take one good Daniel Day-Lewis movie every three years over three bad Day-Lewis movies every year anytime.
Most Aesthetically Pleasing Scene:
Although his performance in There Will Be Blood is most often remembered for the “I Drink Your Milkshake” scene, I’ve always found the scene where Day-Lewis’ character is repeatedly slapped by Paul Dano’s town priest during a baptism to be the most jaw-dropping of Day-Lewis moments. The way Day-Lewis screams, “I’ve abandoned my child! I’ve abandoned my boy!” will make your heart stop and the giant vein on his forehead will give you all the proof you need that Daniel Day-Lewis truly is the greatest living actor.
Awesome Bonus Scene:
Although it’s his weakest movie, Rob Marshall’s Nine is worth checking out simply to watch Daniel Day-Lewis sing!
By: Eric Weintraub