Once Christy Brown, then Hawkeye, Gerry Conlon, Bill the Butcher, Daniel Plainview, and now Lincoln – it’s hard to believe that all these roles have been played by the same actor. The effortlessness, the elegance in his performances often make us believe that it is not Daniel Day Lewis mesmerizing us, but Christy Brown, or Lincoln, playing himself.
Daniel Day-Lewis has indeed taken method acting to newer heights. One of the most selective actors among the film fraternity, he has starred in only 20 films in a career spanning over 40 years. A recipient of 89 major acting awards in 123 nominations in total, which includes 3 wins (the first and highest in best actor’s category) and 5 nominations at the Oscars, he is known for staying in his characters completely for the duration of the shooting of his films, getting into the skin of the roles even to the point of emotional and physical breakdown.
It is this radically different approach, and his obsession to search the truth in the character that makes him what he is. In order to understand and perform the role of Christy Brown in My Left Foot (Jim Sheridan, 1989), he spent weeks on wheelchair, ultimately damaging his ribs. For his role of Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans (Michael Mann, 1992), he started living in the forest, camping, hunting and fishing that his character demanded. For In the Name of the Father (Jim Sheridan, 1993), he spent considerable time in a prison cell, interacting with the inmates and while internalizing the role, and even got physically and verbally abused.
The obsession continued for one film after the other, from Gangs of New York to There Will be Blood (Martin Scorsese, 2002), and now in Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, 2012), he has displayed the same madness towards perfection. We gaze in awe, when Lincoln bends forward, slowly twitches his arms, while the wrinkles on his face glow out of passion and devotion, expressing the values the man believed in!
An intensely private person, Daniel Day-Lewis remains untouched by the glamour and publicity that goes around and stays focused to deliver one unbelievable performance after another, internalizing the emotions that his characters undergo and immortalizing the characters in return. Kudos to the master, and the madness.