Five days ago I described Daniel Day Lewis‘s announced retirement as a kind of cowardice. “Abandoning the struggle is a sin,” I wrote. “We’re here only a limited time and then we’re dead, for God’s sake. I understand burnout — it happens — but I don’t respect people who’ve been lucky enough to find a special calling and then just walk away from it.”
Gifted people get to retire under two circumstances — i.e., if they’re in the grip of a fatal disease or in the final stages of old-age dementia. Otherwise retirement is not an honorable option.
Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman has adopted a more charitable view. DDL isn’t a coward — he’s just doing another mercurial hide-out, an extended Frank Sinatra thing.
Day-Lewis “will, at some point, want to act again because that’s such a dominating dimension of who he is,” Gleiberman writes. “Besides, to put it in terms he’d surely disdain: What else is Daniel Day-Lewis going to do? He’s 60 years old, which really is the new 50, and assuming he lives a long and vital life, how could he stay away? My instinct says that his instinct wouldn’t let him.
“It’s easy to imagine Day-Lewis busting out of his retirement in about four years by showing up, seemingly out of nowhere, to portray Big Daddy in a stage production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, mounted in some tiny 180-seat theater in Dublin. It would immediately become the hottest ticket in the world. Then, of course, there are the film directors who will likely never stop beckoning.
Interesting thought: “From the moment that Daniel Day-Lewis wowed the world by appearing, in one year, as the scolding Edwardian fop of A Room with a ViewMy Beautiful Laundrette, he was always seismically both: an actor of Brandoesque ferocity who fused that quality with the devotion to sheer otherness of an Olivier. That’s why his borderline loopy immersion process is so integral to who he is: It’s doing what Laurence Olivier did — becoming another person — brought off with Marlon Brando’s wild-dog existential intensity.
“For 30 years, DDL has swung for the fences. He didn’t just want to show up in a movie as some version of himself; he wanted to transcend himself — to literally make acting into an out-of-body experience. The question going forward isn’t whether Day-Lewis is really retiring. It’s whether the spirit of transformation that he represents has come to seem like a mountain that actors no longer need, or even want, to climb.”