The Many Faces of Actor Daniel Day-Lewis
Actor Daniel Day-Lewis never takes the easy route when preparing for his films. He is notoriously picky about the parts that he chooses, and he often disappears from acting for long periods of time. His dedication to his craft was very evident when he actually took part in real boxing matches-350 of them-in order to prepare for his role as a fighter in "The Boxer." He wanted to get into the head of a fighter by simulating what they really go through. This intense in character preparation was also used when he portrayed the wheelchair bound artist, Christy Brown, in "My Left Foot." To get into the mindset for "The Last of the Mohicans," he actually lived like a frontiersman for some time. This is one of the many reasons why Day-Lewis is considered one of the most talented actors of our time, and is often compared to his idol, Robert De Niro.
Although he had several excellent roles in theater productions, including the Royal Shakespeare Theater, his film career did not receive a jumpstart until 1986. He played two roles that were very much different from each other in two separate films that played at the same time. Critics were impressed with his handling of the diversity that he displayed as a gay Neo-Nazi in "My Beautiful Laundrette" versus a more straight edge role in "A Room with a View." He earned the New York Film Critics Circle's honor of Best Supporting Actor for his performance in these two films.
In 1989, Day-Lewis was cast in "My Left Foot." His insistence of always remaining in character impressed the film's producer, Jim Sheridan. Critics were enamored with the actor's performance as well, plus the dedication and performance earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. After much attention for this achievement, Day-Lewis spent the next three years working under the Hollywood radar in theater.
His return to the film screen came when he took on the role of Nathaniel Poe in "The Last of the Mohicans." The 1992 film was an unexpected hit, and brought attention to him as a sex symbol. In 1993, he landed the role of the wealthy lawyer, Newland Archer in Martin Scorsese's "Age of Innocence." He also appeared that year in another of Jim Sheridan's films-"In the Name of the Father"-as a prisoner that served a 15 year sentence for a terrorist bombing. Day-Lewis once again meticulously prepared for the role by living like he was incarcerated. The performance earned him a best actor Oscar nomination.
It would be three more years until he appeared in another film, "The Crucible" (1996). The script was based on a play about the Salem witch trials by Arthur Miller. Day starred alongside Winona Ryder. However, the film was not well-received by critics. "The Boxer" followed, and it was also directed by Jim Sheridan. This performance received rave reviews and earned Day-Lewis a Golden Globe nomination. The actor decided to enter semi-retirement afterwards, but Martin Scorsese managed to convince him to join his production of "Gangs of New York."
Although he was memorable in his performance as Bill 'the Butcher' Cutting, the filming of this movie was very taxing. He allegedly did not get along with the star, Leonardo DiCaprio. It was also disappointing that the film-which received ten nominations-was completely snubbed at the Academy Awards. Day-Lewis insisted that "Gangs of New York" would be his last film. But his director wife offered him the role as lead in "The Ballad of Jack and Rose." It is not the highlight of his career, but he enjoyed making it.
Day-Lewis appeared in one of his most memorable roles as Daniel Plainview in "There Will Be Blood" (2007). The character of Plainview makes the entire movie, as it is really a study of one man's life-the story of what great wealth and greed can do to man. Audiences and critics alike were riveted by his maniacal, sociopathic behavior. The portrayal gave a glimpse into an early twentieth-century robber baron.
His transformative appearance in Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln" left many in awe. Perhaps no other actor has physically matched Abraham Lincoln as much as the tall and thin Day-Lewis. He has made the role of Lincoln uniquely his own, by giving the sixteenth President an unexpected voice-one with a high tone. He spent a lot of time reading various works about Lincoln's life-almost a full year. Evidence suggested that Lincoln's voice was not a baritone, but one that carried with a high pitch. He conveys a human sense of weariness in the great orator, and soulful tenderheartedness. This outstanding portrayal will probably earn yet another Oscar nomination for him, and most likely a win.