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Daniel Day-Lewis Explains Retirement From Acting After Filming ‘Phantom Thread’

One of the most dedicated actors in Hollywood is retiring, and the reason is both surprising and ultimately vague. Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”), who’s earned three Oscars for his roles in “Lincoln,” “There Will Be Blood” and “My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown,” explained the events leading to his retirement in an interview with W Magazine.

One of the industry’s best method actors, Day-Lewis is known for learning all he can about his characters before playing them. The actor’s explored many professions during his career, learning how to throw knives for “Gangs of New York,” building a kitchen table before shooting “The Ballad of Jack & Rose,” and even rigging a historically accurate oil well for “There Will Be Blood.” He approached his last role as fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” in a similar fashion, re-creating a classic Balenciagia gown after a lengthy apprenticeship under Marc Happel, head of the costume department at the New York City Ballet. “Being in a workshop is like food and drink to me. I love that sense of creation,” he said to W.

But, as many of Day-Lewis films do, “Phantom Thread” turned more melancholy and revealing than Anderson or Day-Lewis expected. He told W:

Before making the film, I didn’t know I was going to stop acting. I do know that Paul and I laughed a lot before we made the movie. And then we stopped laughing because we were both overwhelmed by a sense of sadness. That took us by surprise: We didn’t realize what we had given birth to. It was hard to live with. And still is.

The depression from making the film followed the actor even after production wrapped. After finishing the film, Day-Lewis declared his retirement. He’d previously experienced dark “blue” periods after completing past films, leading “My Left Foot” director Jim Sheridan to say “Daniel hates acting”; usually, the actor eventually found a new character with a story too tempting to resist. This time, Day-Lewis decided to quit altogether, and was vague about the reasoning behind the decision:

“I haven’t figured it out. But it’s settled on me, and it’s just there. Not wanting to see the film is connected to the decision I’ve made to stop working as an actor. But it’s not why the sadness came to stay. That happened during the telling of the story, and I don’t really know why…I knew it was uncharacteristic to put out a statement. But I did want to draw a line. 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.”

Though he laughed when W suggested he could become a fashion designer, he left his options open, saying, “Who know? I won’t know which way to go for a while.” The actor still practices other artistic pursuits, some he picked up from films and others in his personal life. He still paints, writes, makes furniture, boxes, and even made a dress by hand for his wife. Awards Circuit’s Joey Magidson previously speculated that Day-Lewis would turn to the world of fashion, but it’s clear Day-Lewis himself hasn’t decided what he’ll do just yet.

Starring Day-Lewis, Leslie Manville (“Maleficent”) and Vicky Krieps (“The Young Karl Marx”), “Phantom Thread” premieres Christmas Day. Watch the trailer below.

Sad to see Daniel Day-Lewis leave acting? What do you think the actor will set his sights on next? Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by Selina Mixner

Selina is a queer, half-Filipina fangirl who loves TV, film and corgis a little too much. She graduated with a Bachelor's in Literature and Psychology from UC Santa Cruz. Her rules for writing are simple: is it tattoo-worthy? If not, try again.

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