I’ve never got the concept of method acting. To me, it just seems a very strange thing to do. You’re inhabiting this strange world on celluloid; why would you want to then act like a primadonna or an emotionally confused or scarred person when the cameras stop rolling? Yet some of the best actors we have seen have been method actors – and Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the best modern proponents.
He’s in Lincoln, which has managed to break all kinds of records for interest and box office attendance, because people want to know the story behind one of the most famous Presidents of the United States ever. And Day-Lewis is the man himself.
I guess if you’re going to strut around being someone all the time, one of the most highly-regarded politicians in history would be a good bet to be. In fact, Day-Lewis’ method acting ways managed to infect the whole production of Lincoln. Steven Spielberg – a man who can do pretty much whatver he wants because he’s so fricking famous and rich – was even forced to bow in deference to Day-Lewis-Lincoln on set. He told reporters that he spent his time during scenes referring to Day-Lewis as “Mr President” and, get this:
He managed to step away from his constant sartorial choice of slouchy clothes and a baseball cap. That’s right: Lincoln made Spielberg wear a suit to work every day.
No-one’s been able to do that. No-one!
Day-Lewis is known for his tyrannical adherence to the method acting method (if you’ll let me describe it as such). Five years ago he told a reporter that:
My preference is that, that day when someone sticks a tripod in front of you with a camera on the top, it is not day one. It begins way before, with the work before you start filming – and there is no limit to the amount of time that you take to discover a whole life; it could take six months, a year, or a lifetime.
And he’s not wrong. Day-Lewis has tattooed his own knuckles and gone ten rounds with boxers in order to get into the mindset of his character in 1997’s ‘The Boxer’. A year earlier for ‘The Crucible’ he built a mud shack. With his bare hands. Not for him turning up on-set to see a perfectly-crafted building done by the movie’s carpenters. No, Day-Lewis is committed to the point of craziness.
For ‘Gangs of New York’ he decided to pick fights with random people on the streets of Rome. “I had to do my preparation,” he said. “And I will admit that I went mad, totally mad. I remembered the days of fighting on the Millwall terraces and they stood me in good stead for Bill the Butcher. He was a bit of a punk, a marvellous character and a joy to be – but not so good for my physical or mental health.”
You keep on truckin’ DDL. You keep on truckin’.