Besting Bradley Cooper, Denzel Washington, Hugh Jackman, and Joaquin Phoenix, Daniel Day-Lewis made Oscar history last night when he was awarded his third Academy Award for Actor in a Leading Role. The Lincoln actor first won the Best Actor Oscar in 1990 for his gripping portrayal of the Irish painter and writer Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy in the biopic My Left Foot, then again in 2008 for his role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.
Despite being hailed by Irish Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan as an “artist at the height of his powers… absolutely without peer,” don’t be too quick to label the Wicklow resident the world’s greatest actor. At a Hollywood after party, The Daily Telegraph asked Day-Lewis how it felt to have such laurels; he simply told them, “It’s daft isn’t it.”
Never one for the spotlight, Day-Lewis is a man of humility and his acceptance speech showed it, eschewing the standard role call of thanks and turning the literal spotlight on presenter Meryl Streep; his wife, the author and director Rebecca Miller; and finally dedicating the award to his mother, the late actress Jill Balcon.
“It’s a strange thing because three years ago before we decided to do a straight swap, I had actually been committed to play Margaret Thatcher.” Day-Lewis joked in his speech, “And Meryl was Steven’s first choice for Lincoln.”
Turning to his wife, he admitted she “has lived with some very strange men,” referring of course to his notorious and meticulous method acting. “But luckily she’s the versatile one in the family and she’s been the perfect companion to all of them.”
As for what’s next for the 55-year-old actor, the London Sunday Times reported that he has told his agent he is on “sabbatical,” and has no new projects planned for at least the next five years. He told the Sunday Times he plans to return to his family and his 50-acre County Wicklow farm. While the rest of the world may be reeling, readers of Irish America will have seen a preface, since a good portion of our recent feature on him focused on his family life, his ambivalence between work and home, and the fact that one of his sons apparently thinks he is a chair maker. But what may surprise is what Day-Lewis plans to do with his time: “Things,” he coyly told The Daily Telegraph, and “rural skills” like stonemasonry, he told the Sunday Times.
While it may be the case that we won’t see Day-Lewis in another role before he is 60, his 14-year-old son may finally get to see his father build things like he thinks he does; and with five years ahead of him in Wicklow, that could turn into a lot of chairs.
Of course, Daniel Day-Lewis wasn’t the only Irish citizen to be honored last night. The short film Curfew took home the gong for best live action short, which was directed by Shawn Christensen, and cinematography by Daniel Katz, who was born in Dublin and studied film at Ballyfermot.
Irish-American belle Anne Hathaway also won for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Fantine in Les Miserables.