Ten Facts about Daniel Day-Lewis' Method Acting Preparations

Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left FootThere's a pretty great little article over at Yahoo looking into the folklore and legends of the lengths Daniel Day-Lewis goes to for his craft. The fact Daniel Day-Lewis is a method actor is no secret, just as much as we all know he remained in character for Lincoln, sent Sally Field a text message as Honest Abe and asked English cast members not to speak with him in their British accent so as not to throw him off. Well, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Along with throwing actual bowling balls at Paul Dano while filming There Will be Blood, learning to build a canoe for The Last of the Mohicans and becoming a butcher for Gangs of New York, here are ten facts taken from Yahoo's article about Day-Lewis' preparation. After you read them you tell me... Would you go to the same lengths as him if you knew it would give you the opportunity to be considered one of the greatest actors of all-time and a third Oscar was likely coming your way?

  1. ...learned to speak Czech for his role in The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  2. ...had to be lifted around the set as he would never leave his wheelchair and insisted his meals be spoon-fed to him during My Left Foot
  3. ...would only eat food he killed during Last of the Mohicans. He, of course, learned how to track, hunt and skin the animals.
  4. ...walked around New York City wearing a top hat and cane for two months while preparing for The Age of Innocence
  5. ...spent nights locked in solitary confinement in the abandoned prison where they filmed In the Name of the Father
  6. ...didn't bathe for the entirety of shooting The Crucible to get the feeling of what it was to live by 17th century standards
  7. ...spent 18 months training to be a boxer for The Boxer
  8. ...caught pneumonia while making Gangs of New York because he refused to wear a toasty modern coat because it wasn't in keeping with the period.
  9. ...moved out of his house and arranged to live separately from his wife (and director and co-star) in order to experience the isolation of his character's life in an island commune in preparation for The Ballad Of Jack And Rose.
  10. ...scared off Kel O'Neill from There Will be Blood after O'Neill claimed "Day-Lewis' character Plainview was just too intense for him to work alongside day after day." Paul Dano replaced him.
  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Adu/ Adu

    Wowza!...They gotta put up a statue of this guy somewhere after he retires.

  • Winchester

    Not being an actor I honestly don't know if I would choose the method route or not when working on a role.

    It's obviously not a prerequisite to go to those lengths in order to be a great actor but then I think it's actually the only way he can play the parts. But I don't think he does it for the accolades and for consideration of being one of the greatest actors of all time. He seems too quiet for that in interviews and in public. I think that's just an effect of the levels of immersion that he feels he needs to do to be able to play the role in question.

  • jessied44

    Check out the clips of Hugh Jackman on upcoming The Actors Studio showing how to do it just as well without being a pain to others. Clips are here http://www.bravotv.com/inside-the-actors-studio/season-18/videos/hugh-jackman-wolverine

    • Kimberly

      Hugh Jackman could not even carry a script walking behind Day Lewis.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

        Pretty sure he could... even I could do that.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

    Number 8 is INSANE! LMAO!

  • http://shloggshorrorblog.blogspot.com/ Shloggs

    This brings to mind what Sir Laurence Olivier allegedly said to Dustin Hoffman on the set of Marathon Man as he watched Hoffman stay awake for days and push himself to the point of exhaustion:

    "Good god man, why don't you just ACT?"

    I always found that funny, but I do respect the method approach quite a bit and Day Lewis is one of the finest proponents of it. When done properly by him, Bale and DeNiro, the results are unarguably impressive.

    • Liathach

      I was thinking of that quote too.

      Yo have to feel for his wife...

      • Liathach

        "You", even.

  • Newbourne

    What's with #10? What a wuss.

  • Joe K

    If it were anyone else going this far, I'd be tempted to say it's a little ridiculous, but there's really no arguing with Daniel Day-Lewis's results, is there?

  • http://smartfilm.blogspot.com SmartFilm

    Insane fact about 'My Left Foot', he was hunched over in that position so long that he actually broke a rib...just because he didn't move...just because he was acting...guy's fucking nuts.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Fox/ Fox

    The only thing I have to say is that DDL is the best living actor, maybe the best of all time. He should do whatever he needs to do to prepare for a role, because he's absolutely mesmerizing to watch. He's the only actor alive who can absolutely take over a film.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/JimmyDiamies/ Jimmy Diamies

    If I had natural talent to begin with like DDL, I would absolutely do those things. It wouldn't even necessarily be about the performance but becoming someone else entirely for a couple months (ex. a boxer or butcher) because it would be interesting and probably very refreshing, also learn new skills often times practical ones. Being carried around set and spoon fed doesn't really qualify but no better way to empathize with a person/character.

    #8 does seem like one to avoid

  • brace

    he deserves respect but his method is ridiculous. it's just movies. i would like to see him in am movie where he's relaxed. it would be like holiday for him and joy for us.

    • https://twitter.com/TooMuchHamza Hamza Zain

      I doubt he would ever do it. I read somewhere that he won't do a film unless he feels like he truly has something to give and bring to the character. And that once he's done, it takes a lot out of him.

    • John Khan Harrison

      number 10 is bullying

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/navaneethks/ navaneethks

    Wow. No wonder he is about to win his 3rd Oscar. He deserves a lifetime achievement award.

  • https://twitter.com/TooMuchHamza Hamza Zain

    I wouldn't do it for the awards, personally, more so just to be that talented. Clearly, what ever method he has only adds to his insane amount of talent. I think the method approach he takes is so that he believes he is the character, that way everything he does on film comes across incredibly believable.

  • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

    DDL is probably the greatest actor to have ever lived. He truly is magnificent. This list is posted here is awesome.

  • Paul Lynch

    Just as well DDL didn't get Jason Clarke's role in ZD30.....

    • Conor

      I literally lol'd. Well done sir.

  • Badge

    I'd like to see DDL star in a movie about a guy who's an obsessed method actor. He'd probably go into some kind of moebius strip and never get out.

  • Travis

    I have done some acting, and I do prefer method. However, I can't even come close to imagining going as far as he does

  • BennY

    he is fascinating, I think few people can deny that,

    but luckily!!! we have many other prodigies, like Streep and Blanchett who are not method but have given us a plethora of fascinating characters as well.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Fan/ Fan

    Daniel Day-Lewis is my favorite actor of all time. He stars in both my favorite films. I read and heard it takes him about 3 months to get out of character, he said he has to let the character slowly drain out rather than turning it on and off. And 3 months is the right amount of time and anymore than that he'd be in a straight jacket and locked up. He always stayed in character on and off camera. During the shoot of Gangs of New York he would only call Liam Neeson Priest. He would listen to intense music like Eminem before shooting an intense scene. When he caught pneumonia after he refuse medical care Scorsese had to stop shooting to force him to get treatment. During There Will Be Blood he got pretty physical with Paul Dano shoving him around on and off screen. Even after the film finish he was still taking shots at Paul, at an award show, I don't remember which, he said Freasier (Dillon Freasier the boy who played H.W.) hits harder than you. He thank his wife when he received his Oscar because can you imagine living with Daniel Plainview for 3 months... He is the greatest actor alive today. Always look forward and anticipate this man work. I hope he wins his third Oscar he truly deserve it.

  • The Jackal

    If any actor can take down the record for most Best Actor Oscar statuettes, it's this guy. It's such a shame that Johnny Depp went the Blockbuster route or DDL may have more competition these days. As such, Mr. Lewis is cinema's most extraordinary acting force.

    Thems the facts

  • pamma

    Laurence olivier sucks

    • John Khan Harrison

      marathon man

  • DontMessWithAmerica

    Each performer needs to find his own method in approaching roles that are far removed from his natural self. Daniel sounds a bit over the top but if it works for him, Hallelujah!

    I've acted on and off between more demanding and interesting vocations and found a different approach each time. I was once asked to audition for an old gay guy with Alzheimer's. That's pretty far out. To relax, I joked as I walked into a room filled with other actors auditioning for the same role. "Guys," I said, "This is a dangerous role we're trying out for. First we need to memorize the lines. Then get into the character of an old fart with Alzheimer's. If we do that well, when we start filming, we'll forget the lines."

    Any decent actor, of course, can put on an effeminate act but the director wanted me to play him straight. I felt that there needed to be some sort of hint of femininity and the scene for the audition had a highly emotional moment. I thought of Meryll Streep and how she uses her hands touching her face when she expresses emotions and I emulated her so well that real tears rolled out of my eyes. I got the part. And guess what. When we started filming I kept forgetting my lines.

  • Kimberly

    You have to understand for a true actor it is not about the glitz or glamour, it is only about the work , only about the story...and then ultimately it is only about being , existing as that character not just for the moment , but at the time actually becoming that character.