Sir Daniel Day-Lewis has spoken publicly for the first time about his decision to quit acting — first announced back in June — saying the making of his latest film left him “overwhelmed” with sadness.
“I haven’t figured it out,” he told W magazine. “But it’s settled on me, and it’s just there. […] [It] happened during the telling of the story, and I don’t really know why.”
Phantom Thread opens in theaters next month, and sees Sir Daniel reunited with his There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson for a story set in the fashion world of 1950s London.
He plays exacting fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock, but it seems the role — and his tendency to fully inhabit the characters he plays — took its toll.
“I dread to use the overused word ‘artist,’ but there’s something of the responsibility of the artist that hung over me,” he explained. “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.”
Sir Daniel’s explanation leaves us looking forward to Phantom Thread with a heavy heart. On the one hand, it’s going to be great: not only will it feature another perfectly calibrated performance from DDL (confirmed by the trailer released last month), but a Day-Lewis/Anderson collaboration is a sure-fire awards-magnet.
On the other though, it’ll be his final movie, and that makes us sad.
Sir Daniel has acknowledged the statement he released earlier this year announcing he was quitting was “uncharacteristic,” but represented a desperate attempt to “draw a line.” By making his decision public he felt he could avoid being “sucked back into another project.”
Because that is exactly happened in back 2002, when after five years of semi-retirement, Martin Scorsese offered him the part of William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting in Gangs of New York.
This time, though, it seems like Sir Daniel is determined to make it stick.
“All my life, I’ve mouthed off about how I should stop acting,” he explained. “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.”
The Oscar-winning star of Lincoln and My Left Foot continued: “Do I feel better? Not yet. I have great sadness. 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.”
We can’t help but think that’s how we’ll feel as we leave the theater.
Phantom Thread opens this December 25.
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