3. Daniel Day-Lewis
MY LEFT FOOT, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, GANGS OF NEW YORK, LINCOLN
The term “method acting” has become cynical shorthand, a phrase actors use when (not-so) quietly pleading to be taken more seriously. So much so, the term has begun to lose meaning, forgetting that method acting sees a performer embody their character, filtering daily routines and decisions through someone else’s. But among true method actors (the ones not mailing their condoms to co-workers), Daniel Day-Lewis has become the paradigm of an actor who’s “gone method”. And for good reason (if true, what Day-Lewis did to portray Christy Brown—famed Irish author born with debilitating cerebral palsy—in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot is nothing short of insanity). Daniel Day-Lewis’ commitment to rendering three-dimensional performances has led to some of cinema’s most prominent characters. He’s capable of taking potentially melodramatic characters (Bill the Butcher in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York) and molding them into something tangible and specific. Conversely, he can deliver an intimate study of a character whose legacy casts a nearly insurmountable shadow (Lincoln or the aforementioned My Left Foot).
Daniel Day-Lewis is in a fraternity of actors capable of delivering a character that no pen can write; in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, Day-Lewis offered a performance that transcended the medium. Daniel Plainview is a character that will be mentioned in the same breath as The Wizard of Oz and The Godfather or Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles, the words and names that have become synonymous with cinema.