|Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York|
There are few actors quite like Daniel Day-Lewis. For starters, he often goes so long in between movie projects that it's easy to believe that each movie is his last. Before his latest film with director Paul Thomas Anderson (due this Fall), he starred in Lincoln, which won him his third Best Actor statue. That was five years ago. So, what is up next on his agenda? Unlike almost every other time, there is news of what that will be. Following the release of the Anderson film, he will be retiring from acting. The news is as shocking as it is predictable for an actor known for his reclusive personality and his fickle way of picking projects. Still, he leaves behind an impressive body of work that few could possibly match.
If there's no other title that Lewis has earned, it's at least his ability to be one of the most dedicated method actors of his generation. There have been countless stories going back to his early days that reflect his dedication to physicality and accents that is at times unmatched. He doesn't treat it as a gimmick like Leonardo DiCaprio or Jared Leto. In his weird, ridiculous way, his method acting helped him as well as the audience understand the mentality. For Gangs of New York, he lived on set and learned valuable traits to his character. For Lincoln, his studies went so deep that a large part of marketing featured co-stars saying that Lewis WAS Abraham Lincoln. He is an actor so dedicated that it's often hard to realize that he's a cinematic chameleon, managing to play disparagingly different roles. Anyone who has seen There Will Be Blood would be forgiven if they didn't think that Daniel Plainview was the same man as The Age of Innocence's Newland Archer.
In a note to The Hollywood Reporter, his publicist Leslee Dart said that:
“Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor. He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject. ”
This statement definitely is surprising, as it confirms something that many have assumed every few years when Lewis made a movie. Still, it's like Jack Nicholson returning to acting for Toni Erdmann. Some things need to be spelled out just to be safe. Still, there's plenty to be hopeful in speculation as to how good Anderson's next movie is, as their previous collaboration (There Will Be Blood) earned Lewis his second Best Actor statue and is often considered his best and most iconic work, in no small part to its memorable "I drink your milkshake" ending. If the film ends up being as good, it would be smart to speculate that Lewis will go out on top with a fourth Oscar win, let alone a nomination.
Still, there's plenty of time left to look back fondly on Lewis' career. There will probably be stories and retrospectives to highlight his unique gifts to cinema. There will probably be more than Anderson and crew talking about his achievements. Who knows, maybe former collaborators like Martin Scorsese will give him a poignant farewell. Still, it's going to be an interesting time going forward, especially knowing that one of cinema's greats are saying goodbye this year. Here's hoping that he ends his career on such a high and poignant note that it becomes as storied as his own method process.