Daniel Day-Lewis, the Lunatic


Daniel Day-Lewis, the Lunatic

Illustration: Akshita Monga


he opening scene of There Will Be Blood was my first introduction to Daniel Day-Lewis. I was a young undergrad in my first year in acting school. The scene was a silent one, sans any dialogue. Daniel Day-Lewis is seen toiling in a pit in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of all the mining, he breaks his leg and then through sheer willpower drags himself out of the pit, into the nothingness of the desert that surrounds him. There is only the man, his body, and an ominous despair that speaks volumes about the barbaric and inhuman work that created our leisured modern age. It was only when I watched that scene did I come to realise the potential a human body holds.

It was general wisdom passed from batch to batch that all actors must sit through three DDL (as he is called in the fraternity) films before they learn anything of consequence. Young millennial actors like us, who were born in the late ’80s, would constantly hear about four Hollywood greats in the field of acting – Brando, Pacino, De Niro, and Day-Lewis. Marlon Brando was dead, Al Pacino seemed to have passed on the mantle to Amitabh Bachchan (who then fashioned a career out of mimicking Pacino trademarks), and the Robert De Niro of the ’90s was busy mimicking the De Niro of the ’70s and ’80s. The only respectable contemporary flag-bearer of method acting known to mankind was Daniel Day-Lewis, who portrayed a man suffering from cerebral palsy, a butcher, a money-obsessed oil tycoon with a bad right foot, and much more during the course of his life. DDL’s preparation for a role is aimed at turning it into a lived experience so that a new version of the self, which suits the script, can emerge. He acquired the reputation of a lunatic, willing to lose his sanity by wanting to become a different person for a different film.