October 25, 2012
If you peruse the Arts and Culture archives of TNB’s 21 Questions, particularly the part that asks for a favorite actor, you’ll find Daniel Day-Lewis to be the most common answer. He’s an actor’s actor, I suppose. And also, he’s just that good. I’m convinced, anyway, that if it weren’t for his casting as Abe in Spielberg’s Lincoln, fewer of us would be paying attention. As TNB helmsman Brad Listi recently tweeted:
If this is your wish as well (isn’t it everyone’s?), you’ll appreciate Time’s new profile of Day-Lewis — “How the Greatest Living Actor Became Lincoln.” Here’s a sample:
If Lincoln seems given over to legend, so does Day-Lewis’ totalizing methodology of acting, honed over a quarter-century. It comes with its own boilerplate of mythos and anecdote: How he stayed in character throughout My Left Foot (1989), in which he portrayed the profoundly disabled Irish writer and painter Christy Brown, to the point that cast and crew members fed him at lunch breaks and carried him over equipment between setups. How he lived in the manner of an 18th century American Indian in preparation to play the noble warrior Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans (1992), surviving for days on a 3,000-acre (1,200 hectare) expanse of Alabama wilderness. (“If he didn’t shoot it,” Mohicans director Michael Mann says, “he didn’t eat it.”) How he stayed up for three nights straight before a nightmarish interrogation scene as a man wrongly accused of an IRA bombing for In the Name of the Father (1993). How he sharpened knives between takes as the terrifying proto-mobster Bill “The Butcher” Cutting on the set of Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002).
Given his modus operandi—which Day-Lewis mostly declines to discuss—is it intimidating for other actors to perform opposite Day-Lewis? Not on Lincoln, Spielberg says with a grin, “because he wasn’t Bill the Butcher.”
Read the rest of Time’s feature on Day-Lewis here.