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11 Crazy Ways Daniel Day-Lewis Prepared For Roles

27 December 2013 | Features, People Lists | by David Zou

daniel day lewis_method acting

Daniel Day Lewis made Hollywood history when he became the first man ever to bag the Best Actor gong three times.

To many, that qualifies him for the tenuous title of Greatest Actor in History. But he could also be the maddest. Here are 11 best examples.


11. Lincoln (2012)


Demanded that everyone, including Spielberg, would refer to him as “Mr. President” and wouldn’t let English cast members speak to him (in their own accents) while trying to get Abe’s voice right, for fear that it might throw him off.


10. My Left Foot (1989)


A pretty well known example of Day-Lewis’ method acting. While playing the paralysed poet Christy Brown, he refused to leave his wheelchair and had (pissed off) crew members carry him around the set. He also insisted that all of his meals would be spoon-fed to him.


9. The Age of Innocence (1993)


While preparing for his role as an 1870s gentleman in The Age of Innocence, he checked into the Plaza Hotel in New York under his character’s name and walked around New York in period clothing. A top hat, a cane, the whole shebang.


8. The Boxer (1997)


Trained for 1½ years to be a professional-standard boxer with former heavyweight champion Barry McCuigan. Worked out all day every day to become ripped as a mofo. He also crudely tattooed his own hands, because that’s a thing, apparently.


7. The Crucible (1996)

The Crucible

Didn’t wash himself for the duration of the shoot so he could see what living in 17th century hygiene standards was like, because yeah it matters. Also BUILT THE FUCKING HOUSE that his character lived in in the movie and helped build the set. Day-Lewis also spent some time living in one of the replica houses on set with no electricity or running water.


6. There Will Be Blood (2007)


His supporting actor in this film was supposed to be Kel O’Neill, but O’Neill left because Day-Lewis was too god damn intense. Day-Lewis also learned how to use real oil mining gear for the role, and threw real bowling balls at his co-star Paul Dano in one of the scenes. A pretty ballsy move in my book.


5. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Learned the beautiful Czech language for the role of Tomas and refused to break character for nearly the entire 8-month shoot.


4. The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005)


Daniel Day-Lewis’ wife kindly offered him the leading role in a film she was directing, and Day-Lewis repaid her by arranging to live separately from her so he could properly experience the isolation of his character.


3. Gangs of New York (2002)


For his role as Bill the Butcher, Day-Lewis took up lessons as an apprentice butcher and always stayed in character on-set. This included talking in a New York accent and sharpening knives between takes. Because he was so into the role, he refused to wear a warm jacket because according to him, it wasn’t in keeping with the period. And surprise, surprise, he caught pneumonia! He also rejected modern medicine when it was offered to him to help with his illness.


2. In The Name of the Father (1993)


To accurately portray a wrongly convicted prisoner, Day-Lewis spent several nights at a time chilling in solitary confinement in the abandoned prison they were filming in. He even kept himself awake for three days in preparation for an interrogation scene in the film. He also reportedly had crew members randomly throw water on him and verbally abuse him for a realistic IRA prisoner experience.


1. Last of the Mohicans (1992)


To prepare for his role in Last of the Mohicans, D-Lewz (his rapper name) taught himself how to live as a survivalist and learned how to hunt animals for food. He refused to eat anything that he hadn’t killed, whether it was with his trusty flintlock rifle, or a tomahawk both of which he could use very accurately. He might have even karate chopped a couple of geese for dinner, you never know with this guy. D-Lewz also learned how to build a canoe, because if you don’t know how to build a canoe, you don’t know shit.


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  • Darren Dennehy

    Barry McGuigan wasn’t a heavyweight boxer

  • vangpo

    There’s being a professional and being insane. Daniel walks a fine line between the two.

  • MDS

    thumbs up for D-Lewz

  • UN

    he’s one of the all-time greatest but this is to much….

  • Rumoer

    Missing in this list: how he prepared for Chaplin. He prepared for a year (o so I remember), mimicing all Chaplins typical way of mocing, slapstick, watched all Chaplins movies which “scared the crap” out of him, learned to play the violin and left handed tennis and more.

    • P.Mcdonald

      You’re thinking of Robert Downey Jr.

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  • ryan

    That last one isnt true. My friends father trained him for that role, as in strength and conditioning. Put 20 lbs of muscle on him and I can assure you he wasn’t hunting for his food.

  • Marc Jugmohan

    the man has a gift to feel empathy for the character’s he chooses to play and in his own mind he feels he owes the character a certain justice in their portrayal i can see where he’s coming from. Absolutely hard-working and brilliant

  • Jake Bertz

    Dude is supercray

  • Fenrisfil

    For Chaplin, he spent a year in Black and White.

    • Anthony Risola

      I think Robert Downey Jr.was B&W for that one.

  • Dris

    There’s a reason he got 3 oscars. The method acting works perfectly for him. So at the end, who’s the crazy one? Not him, I assure you.

  • Matty Beats

    So Day-Lewis is bloody awesome, nuff said