Daniel Day-Lewis made a shocking announcement in June, releasing a short statement through a spokesperson:
Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor. He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject.
That last part has proven untrue: Day-Lewis has indeed made further comment on this subject, confirming and discussing in detail his retirement in a new interview with W Magazine.
Day-Lewis said that his decision to retire came about after he was “overwhelmed by a sense of sadness” while shooting Phantom Thread, his forthcoming collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson. The film, due out on Christmas Day, stars Day-Lewis as “renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock,” who “finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love.”
Day-Lewis recalled the emotional effect that making the film had on him:
Before making [Phantom Thread], I didn’t know I was going to stop acting. I do know that Paul and I laughed a lot before we made the movie. And then we stopped laughing because we were both overwhelmed by a sense of sadness. That took us by surprise: We didn’t realize what we had given birth to. It was hard to live with. And still is.
Though Day-Lewis has seen many of his other films, he has no plans to see Phantom Thread.
Clearly, if Anderson’s forthcoming fashion drama has anywhere near the emotional impact on audiences that it had on Day-Lewis, we are in for an unforgettable film. Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his previous collaboration with Anderson, the superlative There Will Be Blood.
When asked why he would want to walk away from acting, Day-Lewis said, “I haven’t figured it out. But it’s settled on me, and it’s just there. Not wanting to see the film is connected to the decision I’ve made to stop working as an actor. But it’s not why the sadness came to stay. That happened during the telling of the story, and I don’t really know why.”
The actor also recalled making his initial announcement, then sticking with it:
I knew it was uncharacteristic to put out a statement. But I did want to draw a line. I didn’t want to get sucked back into another project. All my life, I’ve mouthed off about how I should stop acting, and I don’t know why it was different this time, but the impulse to quit took root in me, and that became a compulsion. It was something I had to do.
Asked his feelings on his retirement from film, Day-Lewis mused:
Do I feel better? Not yet. I have great sadness. And that’s the right way to feel. How strange would it be if this was just a gleeful step into a brand-new life. I’ve been interested in acting since I was 12 years old, and back then, everything other than the theater—that box of light—was cast in shadow. When I began, it was a question of salvation. Now, I want to explore the world in a different way.
And when asked what he’ll do next, Day-Lewis told W, “Who knows? I won’t know which way to go for a while. But I’m not going to stay idle. I don’t fear the stony silence.”
Phantom Thread opens on Dec. 25. Watch the trailer here.