9 Times Daniel Day-Lewis Took Method Acting To The Extreme

Between living in the wilderness for a month and catching pneumonia because he only wore period-specific clothes, Day-Lewis is built differently.

Daniel Day-Lewis is possibly the most committed actor ever, or at least he was before his retirement in 2017. The actor threw himself into roles like no one else in his craft, staying in character for months at a time.

Day-Lewis is truly a one-of-a-kind artist, as he was willing to catch pneumonia and lock himself in solitary confinement in the name of bettering his performances. While it has long been debated over whether or not method acting works, the actor’s three Academy Award wins speak for themselves. But there are times when he might have taken it too far.

Learned Czech For The Unbearable Lightness Of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is such an ambiguous title that not only doesn’t explain the movie, but it’s generally such a random non-sequitur too. However, the movie is a fantastic drama about Prague Spring, which was a mass protest when Communists were being suppressed in Czechoslavakia in the 1960s.

In the movie, Day-Lewis plays Tomas, a Czechoslovakian brain surgeon, and he learned to speak the language fluently. According to The Guardian, the seasoned actor learned the native language because he didn’t want to do what most actors do when playing a foreign character, which is speaking American-English in a foreign accent.

Locked Himself In Solitary Confinement For In The Name Of The Father

In the Name of the Father follows four men who were wrongly convicted of bombing several pubs in Guildford, England during the Troubles, which killed four British soldiers. Day-Lewis plays Gerry Conlon, one of these men, who was put through hell when he was convicted.

According to the Telegraph, to prepare for the role, Day-Lewis spent three days in solitary confinement without any water. He also forced the crew to throw cold water over him whenever they passed by. And the water would have felt even colder considering Day-Lewis lost 50 pounds for the part, drastically changing the shape of his body long before it became Christian Bale’s trademark.

Living In The Woods For The Last Of The Mohicans

Set in the 18th century, The Last of the Mohicans is a rather unique war movie, as it tells the story of the French and Indian War in the 1750s. The war was brutal, and the 1992 movie depicts the battles in true graphic detail. Day-Lewis put in as much effort to truly capture the events as director Michael Mann.

The actor lived in the woods of North Carolina, but it wasn’t just for three days like his solitary confinement for In the Name of the Father. According to The New York Times, Day-Lewis spent a whole month in the wilderness, and in that time, he learned to hunt and skin animals, fight with tomahawks, and run and gun with a heavy 12-pound flintlock.

Spent Time In A Cerebral Palsy Clinic For My Left Foot

In My Left Foot, Day-Lewis plays Christie Brown, a writer and artist who had cerebral palsy and could only use his left foot. To prepare for the role, the actor visited a cerebral palsy clinic to understand people who suffered from the condition, but he soon took preparations to the next level.

According to Esquire, Day-Lewis once again subjected the crew to be a part of his extreme method of acting. The crew was forced to feed him his food, just as Brown was fed, and they even carried him between sets too. Day-lewis would also visit restaurants in his wheelchair and act like Brown off-screen. But it was all just to give the best possible performance he could, and it worked, as My Left Foot is the best Day-Lewis movie according to Metacritic.

Learned Boxing For 18 Months For The Boxer

Like most boxing movies, The Boxer is a sports drama led by a character who uses the sport to focus on something other than a criminal life. Day-Lewis plays Danny Flynn, a former IRA member, and to get into the role, he trained with professional boxers in Ireland for over year.

According to Talk Sport, it wasn’t just anybody that Day-Lewis trained with, but it was Conor McGregor’s very own coach, Barry McGuigan. After this intense role, Day-Lewis wouldn’t return to acting until five years later with Gangs of New York.

Made Everyone On Set Of Lincoln Refer To Him As “Mr. President”

Day-Lewis has always made everyone on set call him by his character name no matter what movie it was, and out of all of the extreme ways he has gotten into character, it doesn’t sound all that strange.

However, when playing Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln, he literally made the cast and crew call him “Mr. President.” And according to Daily Mail, even director Steven Spielberg was held to that same standard too. Apparently, this went on for the entire length of production, and the celebrated actor didn’t break character for three months.

Refused To Wear A Winter Coat And Caught Pneumonia For Gangs Of New York

Method acting is one thing, but getting into character to the point of catching pneumonia is something else entirely. Gangs of New York saw Day-Lewis come out of retirement, and he plays a role unlike any of his others, the vicious and vulgar murderer Bill the Butcher.

But, according to Looper, as the Martin Scorsese-directed epic is set in 1862 and Day-Lewis insisted on always wearing period-specific clothing, he caught pneumonia in Rome during winter. But then the actor doubled down by refusing to take modern medicine. According to the article, the actor very nearly died.

Learning Dressmaking For Two Years For Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread is the latest and final movie with Day-Lewis in the lead role, as he has once again retired, but this time, it looks like it’s for good. However, though the movie was a modest success, the actor went out with a bang.

Though some Redditors think Phantom Thread is boring, as the film follows a 1950s dressmaker who falls in love with a server, it’s still so detailed. For the movie, according to Slash Film, Day-Lewis spent a whole year as an apprentice for Marc Happel, the head of the New York Ballet’s costume department, and he even learned how to make a Balenciaga dress from scratch.

Learning To Touch His Glass Eye With A Knife In Gangs Of New York

As if catching pneumonia and coming dangerously close to death wasn’t enough, Day-Lewis learned somewhat of a party trick that freaked out a lot of his costars on the set of Gangs of New York. According to The Baltimore Sun, instead of simply using a ghoulish-looking contact lens like most actors would, for Bill the Butcher’s glass eye, the actor used prosthetic glass.

Not only does it look more authentic, but Day-Lewis even learned how to tap on his eye with the end of a knife without blinking. This can be seen in the movie, and the way it sounds, as well as how it looks, isn’t for the faint of heart.

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