A statement from the triple Best Actor winner’s spokesperson last night suggests so, citing a ‘private decision’ and stating that there will be no further comment on the subject. But Day-Lewis appears so sporadically, and only for directors with a singular vision (Rob Marshall’s Nine being the obvious exception, although you can hardly blame The Daniel for wanting to take on Fellini’s 8 ½), so who is to say that he won’t be tempted back into the fray next time when Paul Thomas Anderson comes knocking?
And how many people in the movie business actually remain retired, after all? Steven Soderbergh and Ken Loach both went back on their word about leaving cinema, and after Dave Chappelle’s long-awaited return to the limelight earlier this year I’m not sure anything will surprise me. Even Jack Nicholson is reportedly preparing to star in the Toni Erdmann remake with Kristen Wiig.
Sean Connery is the first name that comes to mind as someone who really has receeded after an exemplary film career, but it was his difficult experience on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that caused his departure from the industry. Day-Lewis is obviously keeping tight lipped about his own reasons, which will only fuel speculation, and then hype if he does eventually return to screens.
To me this strikes as an early play for next years’ awards consideration, with PTA’s Phantom Thread looking like a heavy hitter. The retirement of a legend, already the most decorated leading man in Oscar history, seems like a narrative that would be hard for academy voters to resist.
Day-Lewis is an impossibly versatile actor against whom accusations of overacting overlook the control and purpose with which he delivers his characters. If Phantom Thread does prove his last curtain, then let us hope that it proves a fitting send off for the man who ended his last Anderson performance with the words, ‘I’m finished.’