A Bittersweet Farewell: Daniel Day-Lewis Decides to Retire


Haasi Korlipara, Op-Ed Editor

On December 25th, fans will have one last opportunity to see Daniel Day-Lewis on screen in his upcoming film Phantom Thread, before they must bid the renowned English actor farewell.

Yes, my fellow fans, that fateful time has come: one of the most revered actors in Hollywood…Daniel Day-Lewis…is set to retire. The decision first came to light in June when his spokeswoman, Leslee Dart, publicly revealed news that pierced through the hearts of his fans: “Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor.”

As a three-time Oscar winner, Day-Lewis holds the reputation as one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation. The 60-year old entered the film industry with his debut film Sunday, Bloody Sunday in 1971, but his career really began to take off with his acclaimed role in A Room with a View in 1986. He won three Academy Awards throughout his career for Best Actor, for his roles in My Left Foot (1989), There Will be Blood (2007), and Lincoln (2012).

The actor is admired for devoting himself physically, psychologically, and emotionally to the roles he plays. He learned to speak Czech for his role as a womanising brain surgeon in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, decided to live off the forest and land for months in preparation for his role as a frontiersman in The Last of the Mohicans, and even spent the entire shoot in a wheelchair to successfully emulate a character with cerebral palsy in My Left Foot. These are simply some of the numerous examples which demonstrate the wondrous commitment he brought to his characters.

In his latest, and last film, Phantom Thread, Day-Lewis stars as Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned London fashion designer in the 1950s, whose perfectionist lifestyle is disrupted by a young waitress, who becomes his muse and lover.

Though the reasons for his retirement have remained largely unknown, fans have been quick to brainstorm their own theories. A few believe that, considering Day-Lewis’s full immersion in the roles he plays, perhaps he became too absorbed in his character Reynolds Woodcock. After all, the character is believed to have been inspired by British fashion designer Charles James of the 20th century… a courtier who, interestingly enough, retired himself in at the early age of 52. Fans speculate that Day-Lewis might have developed an obsessive identification with a designer like James in preparation for his role, “to the point of wanting to echo the way he[James] exited the fashion world at the height of his powers.” Others believe that he simply decided he had enough of the spotlight, considering that Day-Lewis was never one to embrace fame, and was always fiercely protective of his private life. Even his home is hundreds of miles from Hollywood Hills, in the tranquil County Wicklow of Ireland.

A surprisingly large number of fans have expressed the belief that Day-Lewis does not intend to be out of the spotlight for good. In a recent tweet on the internet, a user expressed “Daniel Day-Lewis has retired from acting as part of a four-year method preparation for playing a retired actor.” Actress and comedian Amy Poehler appears to share this view, as reflected in her statement on Late Night with Seth Meyers: “Here’s my theory about Daniel Day-Lewis. I think he’s going to come back as another actor and fool us all!”

Alas, the theory that the actor may simply be taking a break from the film industry seems far less plausible, however, in consideration of Day-Lewis’s recent interview with W, where he confirmed that his decision to retire was one he had been considering for quite a while now:“I didn’t want to get sucked back into another project. 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.”

One thing is for sure: his unmatched passion and devotion to acting has left an unforgettable mark on the world of cinema. His departure from the screen will be a bittersweet goodbye for us all.