With Daniel Day-Lewis on the verge of receiving his 3rd Academy Award for his work as Abraham Lincoln in the Spielberg film Lincoln I wanted to take a journey through history and view Lewis’ works over the years.
Lewis has been nominated 5 times including this year’s nomination; the 2 times he missed were in 1994 for In the Name of the Father, where he played Gerry Conlan, a Belfast man wrongly accused of an IRA bombing that killed several people and in 2003 his work in Gangs of New York where he played Bill “the butcher” Cutting. Both these roles were memorable and well done but had some stiff competition. In 1994 he lost to Tom Hanks for his work in Philadelphia and in 2003 he lost to Adrien Brody for his work in The Pianist. Lewis rightfully lost to Hanks in 1994 but I would argue and get plenty of support that his work in Gangs of New York was a bit better than Brody’s work in The Pianist, even though I am a fan of the film.
Lewis’ first Oscar came from his incredible performance in My Left Foot (1989). In this film Lewis played Christy Brown, a man born with Cerebral Palsy but learned to paint and write with the only limb he could control, his left foot, hence the title. I was 14 at the time of this release and from what I remember of the film, my parents and relatives were very vocal about this film and how much they were moved. Now being 14 I was not allowed to watch the film but it stuck in my memory as I grew older and I watched the film a few years later and was completely blown away by Lewis’ performance and the film itself.
Lewis’ received his 2nd Oscar for his honest and chilling performance in the film There Will Be Blood (2007). Lewis played Daniel Plainview, an oil man who will do whatever it takes to achieve his goals and when I say whatever I mean whatever. This film was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the talent behind Magnolia, Boogie Nights, and 2012’s The Master which is nominated for 3 Oscars.
Prior to making My Left Foot, his breakout role in 1989, Lewis had been in several films dating way back to 1971 in Sunday Bloody Sunday. In between 1971 and 2013 you have films such as The Last of the Mohicans, The Boxer, The Crucible, The Ballad of Jack and Rose and The Age of Innocence. Now you figure an actor that has been in the business so long would have a filmography a mile long but not Lewis. Yeah there are 28 titles but this number is small considering he has been acting for 41 years. In comparison you look at an actor like Brad Pitt who has been acting for 25 years and has 67 titles in his filmography, 16 fewer years and 39 more titles. I am a fan of both but I think that this is representative of Lewis’ dedication to his roles and choices. Lewis takes time to get to know his characters inside and out, from their tics and gates to the way they speak. Lewis immerses himself into his characters and becomes them like no other actor of our time. You, as a viewer forget that you are watching a movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis and become immersed in his character regardless of who it is. Lewis has a way to make you forget that he is an actor in a movie and this is so rare in Hollywood.
My friends and I often discuss actors, actresses and movies and this question comes up often, who is the best actor of our time? My answer is always the same, Daniel Day-Lewis. There is no question in my opinion and as he walks up to receive his 3rd Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday just know that this will not be the last time you see him up there because he is the best actor of our time.