Megan Clark | Where’s the Craic?
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 08:11
Lincoln” (2012), featuring Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role, has been out for fewer than two weeks and I have already seen it twice. Movies about iconic American presidents are outside the scope of this column, so all I can say is please go see “Lincoln.” It is outstanding and might change your life.
Much of the magic behind “Lincoln” comes from Daniel Day-Lewis, the greatest actor of our time. I understand that this is a fairly subjective matter and that any readers who have not seen “Little Fockers” (2010) are probably yelling “What about De Niro?” Hang on, though. I think I make a pretty good case.
Other readers may ask, “Why do you talk about Daniel Day-Lewis so much? Isn’t he English?” Yes and no. Daniel Day-Lewis was born in England to Jill Bacon, an English actress, and Cecil Day-Lewis, an Irish poet and the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. He has dual British and Irish citizenship — the Republic of Ireland is completely independent from the United Kingdom — and resides in County Wicklow, a mountainous region in eastern Ireland. Throughout the years, Day-Lewis has made a concerted effort to make films in both Ireland and the United States. He has not made a British film since 1986 and, while he seems to be in the American stage of his career, he has made significant contributions to Irish film with movies such as “My Left Foot” (1989) and “In the Name of the Father” (1993), both of which I have reviewed for this column. So, Daniel Day-Lewis is inarguably British, but his film choices and his interviews reveal that he considers himself Irish as well.
In addition to being certifiably Irish, Day-Lewis is also the most phenomenal actor I have ever seen. At this point in his career, he is famous — or perhaps infamous — for his method acting. On the set of “My Left Foot,” he would not break from playing a severely handicapped man and had to be carried around by the crew. While filming “Lincoln,” he sent texts to his co-star, Sally Field, as the Great Emancipator himself. Despite the distracting discourse surrounding Day-Lewis’ process, we are able to forget about it all when we watch him, or more accurately the characters he creates, on screen. Some actors, even very good ones, have mannerisms that they carry with them from role to role. Fans of the grown-up Leonardo DiCaprio are accustomed to his furrowed brow. Day-Lewis does not have any equivalent. As Jessica Winter noted in her recent TIME article on the actor, Day-Lewis does not even speak at the same pitch in every film. His voice can sound radically different from one movie to the next. There are no tics in Day-Lewis’ performances. Therefore, there are no markers to tie us to him as an actor. He simply dissolves into the characters he is playing.
While Day-Lewis’ life choices never detract from his movies, they are quite fantastical. He has become a legend as both man and actor. In between filming “The Boxer” (1997) and “Gangs of New York” (2002), Day-Lewis took five years off. He spent some of that time in Florence, Italy, apprenticing as a cobbler. He comes to events dressed in 1920s-style tweed suits. He wore an over-sized bow tie to the Oscars in 1989. And, last but not least, Daniel Day-Lewis is a very attractive man. Do a Google image search. Watch “Last of the Mohicans” (1992). You’ll be impressed.
In conclusion, talent, dedication, eccentricity and yes, good looks combine to make Daniel Day-Lewis the greatest actor working today.
In my next and final column, I will be reviewing “The Boxer” starring, you guessed it, Daniel Day-Lewis.
Megan Clark is a junior majoring in history. She can be reached at Megan.Clark@tufts.edu.