He is widely regarded as the greatest actor of his generation, if not all time. He has won three Academy Awards for Best Actor, more than any other male actor in history. He has transformed himself into every character he has played, from a ruthless oilman to a disabled artist, with his legendary method acting and his meticulous attention to detail.
But Daniel Day-Lewis shocked the world in June 2017 when he announced that he was retiring from acting for good after his last film Phantom Thread, directed by his friend and collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson.
Now, the 60-year-old star has opened up about the heartbreaking reason why he decided to quit his illustrious career, revealing how the film, set in 1950s London, where he plays a brilliant but obsessive dressmaker named Reynolds Woodcock who falls in love with a young woman named Alma, left him ‘overwhelmed with sadness’ and ‘compelled’ to stop.
In an emotional interview with W Magazine, Day-Lewis said he did not plan to retire before making the film, but felt a sense of sadness and compulsion to quit while telling the story.
He said: “I do know that Paul and I laughed a lot before we made the movie. And then we stopped laughing because we were both overwhelmed by a sense of sadness. That took us by surprise: We didn’t realize what we had given birth to. It was hard to live with. And still is.”
He added: “But it’s settled on me, and it’s just there. 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.”
Day-Lewis explained that he issued a statement about his retirement to ‘draw a line’ and avoid being ‘sucked back into another project’.
He said: “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.”
He also admitted that he did not feel better after his decision, but rather had ‘great sadness’.
He said: “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 theatre – that box of light – was cast in shadow.”
Day-Lewis said he wanted to tell an English story with Phantom Thread, as he was born in London, the son of poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, and was fascinated by London after the war.
He said: “England is deep in me. I’m made of that stuff. For a long time, a film set in England was too close to the world that I’d escaped from – drawing rooms, classic Shakespeare.”
He also revealed that his father was very much like Reynolds Woodcock, saying: “If a poet is not self-absorbed, what else is he?”
Day-Lewis’s retirement announcement stunned many fans and fellow actors, who praised his talent and hoped he would come back.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who co-starred with him in Gangs of New York, said: “He’s one of my favorite actors of all time. I hope one day he’ll come back.”
Phantom Thread is set to be a masterpiece of cinema, a haunting love story that explores the dark side of creativity and obsession.