In Paul Thomas Anderson's beguiling new drama Phantom Thread, which expands nationwide on January 19 after debuting in New York and LA last year, Daniel Day-Lewis plays an exacting dressmaker who needs every garment to be perfect. As a performer, he approaches his roles with the same level of scrutiny, often acquiring new skills and putting his body through hell in pursuit of artistic growth. It sounds stressful, but the man gets results: He's the only actor to ever win three Best Actor Oscars, and he's likely to pick up another nomination this year.
But all that hard work comes at a cost: The 60-year-old Englishman has announced that Phantom Thread will be his last role, and he'll be retiring from performing. If you've ever read anything substantial about Daniel Day-Lewis, this proclamation shouldn't come as a surprise -- in a 1992 New Yorker profile, the writer Hanif Kureishi said of him, "He was always talking about wanting to give up acting and wanting to make his fucking furniture." -- but it appears this time the claim might stick. If he actually manages to walk away, the stories (and myths) about his acting techniques and meticulous preparation will only grow.
And there are so many stories! In a season filled with actors showing off their method bona fides -- James Franco reportedly directed The Disaster Artist "in character" as Tommy Wiseau -- Day-Lewis is still in a class of his own. If he's really hanging up his top hat to build rocking chairs in Ireland, it will be a great loss to the "write about actors like they are unhinged daredevils" industrial complex. To celebrate Day-Lewis' unwavering commitment to his craft, I typed this entire list about his acting prowess on a 19th-century typewriter in a secluded shack without heat or running water. Was it necessary? Judge for yourself, below.