Daniel Day-Lewis has spoken out about his decision to quit acting, writes Denise O'Donoghue.
The legendary Anglo-Irish actor, best known for powerful roles including Christy Brown in 'My Left Foot', and Bill “the Butcher” Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s 'Gangs of New York', told W Magazine he made the choice while filming his last movie, 'Phantom Thread'.
"Before making the film, I didn’t know I was going to stop acting," he said. "I do know that Paul [Thomas] 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."
He revealed he often considered giving up his acting career in previous years, saying acting "gives you life and is killing you at the same time."
"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," he said.
"What has taken over in the past is an illusion of inevitability. I’ll think, 'Is there no way to avoid this?'
"There are spells in these films that you can’t account for. Paul and I spoke a lot about curses—the idea of a curse on a family, what that might be like. A kind of malady.
"And it’s not that I felt there was a curse attached to this film, other than the responsibility of a creative life, which is both a curse and a blessing. You can never separate them until the day you die. It’s the thing that feeds you and eats away at you; gives you life and is killing you at the same time."
Day-Lewis says he is not sure what he will do in the future.
"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 dread to use the overused word 'artist', but there’s something of the responsibility of the artist that hung over me. I need to believe in the value of what I’m doing. The work can seem vital. Irresistible, even. And if an audience believes it, that should be good enough for me. But, lately, it isn’t."
He said he has "a great sadness" as he mourns the end of a major part of his life which began when he was 12.
"Do I feel better? Not yet. I have great sadness. And that’s the right way to feel. How strange would it be if this was just a gleeful step into a brand-new life," he said.
"I’ve been interested in acting since I was 12 years old, and back then, everything other than the theater—that box of light—was cast in shadow.
"When I began, it was a question of salvation. Now, I want to explore the world in a different way."
"I won’t know which way to go for a while. But I’m not going to stay idle. I don’t fear the stony silence."