Imagining Daniel Day-Lewis In A Life Without Acting

Jun 24, 2017
Originally published on June 24, 2017 7:01 am

He brooded, as Lincoln.

He seduced in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. And he murdered, in There Will Be Blood.

This week, Daniel Day-Lewis — a three-time Oscar winner, and incomparable film chameleon — announced he is retiring from acting at 60.

A statement released by his spokeswoman gave no explanation, saying this is a private decision, and that Day-Lewis will have no further comment.

The actor has often taken lengthy sabbaticals between films, but this time it's apparently permanent.

So what will he be doing?

Well, we know that Day-Lewis has a number of deep passions outside of acting. Woodworking for one, dating back to when he was in boarding school.

Back then, he imagined a life making furniture and even applied for an apprenticeship with a cabinetmaker — before drama drew him in.

Years later, he apprenticed with a master cobbler — learning the craft of shoe-making, in Florence.

I asked Day-Lewis about these pursuits in 2012, when I interviewed him about his role as Abraham Lincoln. He demurred, politely. As a private person, he said, he didn't like to cast attention on his life off the screen.

But eventually, he opened up — just a little bit.

"Yeah, I'm handy. You give me a tool belt, I know what to do with it," Day-Lewis said.

He told me he fell in love with arts and crafts woodworking at his boarding school — the posts and beams, benches and chairs.

"And it was something I felt immediately drawn towards and I discovered that my hands were good, that I could make things and I've always loved to do that," he said. "I just remember that my middle son ... overheard on the radio somebody saying, 'Yeah, I think he makes chairs in his spare time,' which he thought was one of the funniest things he ever heard and ... he imagined me setting up a shop somewhere with 'Dan's Chairs' as the shingle outside."

But about shoe-making? Day-Lewis was mum.

I even played my "I'm the daughter of a sandal-maker" card.

No dice.

"I tell you what," he said. "If we meet one of these days then we can talk about it. I'd happily talk about it to you in private."

Now, I'm picturing Daniel Day-Lewis in retirement — on his farm in Ireland, cobbling away. Or maybe — just maybe — he'll finally get to hang that shingle for "Dan's Chairs."

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

He brooded as Lincoln, seduced in "The Unbearable Lightness Of Being" and murdered in "There Will Be Blood." This week, Daniel Day-Lewis, three-time Oscar winner and incomparable film chameleon, announced he's retiring from acting at age 60. A statement released by his spokeswoman gave no explanation, saying this is a private decision, and Day-Lewis will have no further comment.

The actor has often taken lengthy sabbaticals between films. But this time, it's apparently permanent. So what will he be doing? Well, we know that Day-Lewis has a number of deep passions outside acting - woodworking, for one. He even applied for an apprenticeship with a cabinet maker before drama drew him in. More recently, he apprenticed with a master cobbler in Florence.

When I interviewed Daniel Day-Lewis in 2012, I asked him about these pursuits. He demurred. As a private person, he said he didn't like to cast attention on his life off the screen. But, eventually...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS: You know, I'm handy. I - you give me a toolbelt. I know what do with it (laughter).

BLOCK: He opened up about woodworking just a little bit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DAY-LEWIS: And it was something I felt immediately drawn towards. And I discovered that my hands were good - that I could make things. And I've always loved to do that. And I (laughter) just remember that my middle son, who's 14, overheard on the radio somebody saying, yeah. I think he makes chairs in his spare time, which he thought was one of the funniest things he'd ever heard. And he now - he imagined me setting up a shop somewhere with Dan's Chairs as the (laughter)...

BLOCK: Hanging outside?

DAY-LEWIS: ...As the shingle outside. Dan's Chairs. It was also that same boy, Ronan, who said when somebody asked him what I did - he said, I think he's in construction.

BLOCK: (Laughter).

DAY-LEWIS: And what I loved is that he said, I think because (laughter)...

BLOCK: He just wasn't quite sure.

DAY-LEWIS: It's perfect that kids just never quite know what (laughter) the hell their parents get up to.

BLOCK: But about shoemaking, Day-Lewis was mum. I even played my I'm the daughter of a sandal maker card. No dice.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DAY-LEWIS: I'll tell you what. If we meet one of these days, then we can talk (laughter).

BLOCK: I look forward to that conversation.

DAY-LEWIS: I'd happily talk about it to you in private.

BLOCK: Now I'm picturing Daniel Day-Lewis in retirement on his farm in Ireland, cobbling away. Or maybe he'll finally get to hang that shingle, Dan's Chairs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SONG FOR A CARPENTER")

DAN FOGELBERG: (Singing) Oh, he makes his life as a carpenter. He works his hands in wood. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.