Few artists have done more to popularize immersive acting than method actor Daniel Day- Lewis. He’s known for his extreme preparation methods, which range from not washing himself through the making of The Crucible (1996) to sending texts as Abraham Lincoln during Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012). When asked by co-actor Emily Watson about why he chooses this gruelling routine, he simply said, “Well, I don’t think I’m a good enough actor to be able to not do it this way.”
Earlier last year, Day-Lewis announced his retirement from acting. This means that Phantom Thread (2017), his second collaboration with director Paul Thomas Anderson after There Will Be Blood (2007), will be his final film. Ahead of the India release of the film, we list out the five craziest things he’s done for a role.
My Left Foot (1989)
For his Academy Award-winning role as cerebral palsy victim Christy Brown in My Left Foot (1989), Day-Lewis spent so much time hunched in a wheelchair that he reportedly ended up cracking two of his ribs. He also learned to write and paint with his toes. During the shoot, crew members were required to spoon-feed him and carry him in and out of the car and above equipment.
“He’d call you by your film name, and you’d call him Christy. It was madness. You’d be feeding him, wheeling him around. During the entire film, I only saw him walking once,” director Jim Sheridan’s daughter Kirsten later recalled.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
In director Michael Mann’s 1992 historical drama, he essayed the role of Nathaniel Poe aka Hawkeye. He spent 6 months in the wild where he learnt to built canoes, fight with tomahawks and fire a 12-pound flintlock gun while on the run. Refusing to eat any other food, he also learnt to track, hunt, skin and cook animals.
In the Name of the Father (1993)
For his role as Gerry Conlon who was wrongly convicted of being an IRA bomber, Day-Lewis lost more than 50 pounds by surviving on prison rations. He spent several two nights in the jail cell on-set where he went without sleep. Passersby from the crew were asked to throw cold water and hurl abuses at him. He also underwent an interrogated for three days by real policemen.
The Boxer (1997)
For this role, Day-Lewis literally became a boxer. He did this by training for 18 months with former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan. He allegedly even tattooed his own hands. By the end of training, McGuigan said he had became good enough to fight professional boxers.
Gangs of New York (2002)
In his second collaboration with director Martin Scorsese, the actor played Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting, a violent gang leader. For this, he trained as an apprentice butcher, picked fights with strangers on the streets and hired circus performers to teach him to throw knives with pinpoint accuracy.
Since the film was set in the 19th century, he wanted to be true to the milieu – refusing to wear warmer clothes that didn’t exist in that period. This eventually led him to be diagnosed with pneumonia.