One of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, Daniel Day-Lewis, is set to retire from acting. The 60-year-old star’s publicist, Leslee Dart, released a statement last week announcing: “Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor. He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject.”

The reasons why the British-Irish star is leaving such a stellar career behind are a bit murky. But what is clear is that Day-Lewis has achieved something that no other man has thus far: He’s the only male actor to win three Academy Awards in the Best Actor category. Additionally, he’s one of only three male actors to win three Oscars. And he’s been nominated for an Oscar five times.

The highly selective Day-Lewis has only starred in five completed films since 1998. Roles he passed on include Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and the lead role in The English Patient. But once he commits to a role, he takes method acting to extreme levels immersing himself in exhaustive character preparation. In his own words, the curiosity about his characters takes him into “all kinds of strange places.” For instance, he lived in the wild for six months and learned how to build a canoe, track and skin animals, and mastered using a 12-pound flintlock gun while preparing to portray the backwoodsman Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans. He caught pneumonia while shooting Gangs of New York because he refused to switch his character’s thin and tattered coat for a warmer one because the warmer did not exist in the 19th century. And for The Crucible he lived in the film set’s replica village without electricity or running water, and built his character’s house using 17th-century tools. This allegiance to the role, combined with his adroit skill with accents and potent emotional and dramatic performances, contributes to his chameleon-like ability to disappear into character.

Day-Lewis has spoken many times about how difficult it is for him to let go of his characters after the final shoot. He once told The Telegraph, “There’s a terrible sadness. The last day of shooting is surreal. Your mind, your body, your spirit are not prepared to accept that this experience is coming to an end. You’ve devoted so much of your time to unleashing, in an unconscious way, some sort of spiritual turmoil, and even if it’s uncomfortable, no part of you wishes to leave that character behind. The sense of bereavement is such that it can take years before you can put it to rest.”

His constant devotion to his characters even shows up in his marriage to filmmaker Rebecca Miller. Daniel once joked, “My wife has lived with some very strange men. But luckily, she’s the versatile one in the family and she’s been the perfect companion to all of them.”

Some people question how long this retirement will last because in the late 1990s, the actor retreated from acting, calling it a “semi-retirement.” During a span of about five years, he apprenticed as a cobbler in Italy as he viewed the craft of shoemaking as an antidote to acting. He once told The Guardian that he “just wanted some time away from it all.” He continued, “I need that quite often…I have quite a strong feeling about when I should work and when I shouldn’t.” It was Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York that drew him back onset as gang leader William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting.

Day-Lewis spends time on his family farm in Ireland where he can live freely and minimize the hassles of fame. Intensely private, he once said, “The work [of acting] itself is never anything but pure pleasure, but there’s an awful lot of peripheral stuff that I find it hard to be surrounded by.” That includes seeing his face on movie posters. “That was, and will always be, difficult for me.”

Day-Lewis’ films Oscar-winning films are Lincoln, There Will Be Blood, and My Left Foot. He’s filming a currently untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film which will be released on December 25th, and Day-Lewis will help promote the film. Will this really be last of Day-Lewis on the big screen? We hope not.

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