The Storied Career Of Daniel Day-Lewis

It was announced Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring from acting following the release of his next film. With a film career that has had him working steadily for more than 35 years,

DDL has become one of the most respected and acclaimed actors over that period. DDL has amassed five best leading actors Oscar nominations and three wins (the most leading actor wins for a male ever) seven Golden Globe nominations with two wins and six BAFTA nominations with four wins.

His dedication to his craft and roles have become things of legend. His depth of knowledge of each character and preparation is most likely second to none. What makes almost all his performances so incredible is that he has never taken a role for any selfish reason such as money or to receive top billing or to even keep himself relevant. He has no fear as an actor. No fear of failure or in his abilities.

He is willing to go several years in between films so that he can work on something he believes in. He has been coveted by every top-tier director on the planet and has never disappointed any of them.

I’ve decided to create a list of his top performances in honor of the closing of one of the greatest acting careers ever amassed. With nothing to be ashamed of in his resume (unlike some other heralded actors such as Pacino, Nicholson and Di Nero), it is not a list to be taken lightly but here is my best effort at it.

The Last Of The Mohicans (1992)

Based on James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel about the French and Indian War, DDL teamed up with Michael Mann to play Nathaniel Poe the adopted half white Mohican. The dying tribe is soon thrust into the middle of the war of which they want no part to rescue the daughters of a British colonel. It is with Mohicans that DDL’s stories of commitment and never breaking character would begin. He learned to live on the land and woodwork with primitively with the tools of the time to aid him. This was his first taste of big-budget Hollywood, and to the cinematic world, he did not disappoint.

In The Name Of The Father (1993)

Daniel Day-Lewis garnered his second Oscar nomination playing Gerry Conlon, an Irishman living in London who was falsely convicted of an IRA bombing along with his father along with others. Conlon spent fifteen years in prison trying to prove his innocence with the aid of a British attorney. DDL being of half Irish stock himself felt a closeness and need to tell this story and did so spectacularly. He turned down the lead role in Philadelphia to make this deeply personal film. Tom Hanks took the part in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia and won his first of two consecutive Academy Awards. Had DDL taken the role instead of Hanks we could very well be talking about four leading actor Oscars (or if Hanks had not taken the part).

My Left Foot (1989)

The career of Daniel Day-Lewis hit its highest level for the first time in 1989 when he won his first nomination and Oscar playing Christy Brown, an artist born with cerebral palsy who learned to paint and write with his only functioning limb. The physical abilities and what would become a theme in his performances, his commitment to the role would make the cinematic world stand up and take notice and be in awe of him which would not go away.

Lincoln (2012)

Teaming up for the first time with Steven Spielberg, DDL won his third Oscar playing possibly the most revered figure in American history, Abraham Lincoln. We were treated to such a performance that brought to life this figure in a way no one ever had. The former Ed president had been portrayed by a myriad of excellent actors in the past but never had the authenticity felt as genuine than when he played him. It felt like the closest thing to watching film of the actual Lincoln, of which there is none. Aside from the physical aspects of Lincoln we were given a peek into Lincoln’s mind and thoughts and struggles. Once again his commitment would shine through in such a way that left the audience transfixed to the screen.

Gangs Of New York (2002)

Teaming up with a fellow Hollywood icon in Martin Scorsese to tell the story of the birth of the world’s melting pot, New York City. Lewis once again played a historical figure when he played William Cutting better known as Bill The Butcher who was known as the leader of a highly corrupted city who controlled all crime and criminals in the famed five points area. Fighting the politicians of the city’s corrupt Tammany Hall, a young Irishman gains Bill’s trust to exact revenge for killing his father years earlier. Daniel Day-Lewis was so committed to the role of Cutting that when he became ill on set, he refused particular blankets because they weren’t available in the period of his character. He would speak with a New York accent on and off set and never stopped being the butcher.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece about an unscrupulous oil tycoon at the turn of the century is, in my opinion, Daniel Day-Lewis’ finest hour. His creation of the character Daniel Plainview and all aspects of his personality is marvelous. The depth of the character leaves the audience in awe and makes you completely forget that it’s even acting that is being watched. The film itself is a work of brilliance, but it is nothing without Lewis in front of the camera it is HIS brilliance that makes it brilliant. It is performances like this that have left so many cinephiles extremely sad at the fact that there will be no more from him at all.

The Whirlwind Career Of Robert Downey Jr.

The life and career of Robert Downey Jr. are more of a roller coaster than any movie he’s ever made. His well documented legal and addiction troubles nearly derailed an acting career that was skyrocketing complete with an Oscar nomination, a season on SNL and being the lead alongside superstars like Mel Gibson all by the time he was 27.

His descent into a life of addiction and prison time almost became more well known than any movie he had ever made. Four films are the most pivotal movies in his life and career all for very different reasons. I’m going to break them down in chronological order and why they are so important in the life and career of Robert Downey Jr.

The Career Of Robert Downey Jr.

Before I lay out the list, there are a few films I should mention first that were also essential films for Downey but not as game-changing. The film Air America was one of the first where he was indeed a marquee star. It was a buddy comedy with Mel Gibson who was hitting his peak of fame.

The second film was Wonder Boys with Michael Douglas. This movie was one of the first where everyone thought he was starting to turn the corner. His performance was highly praised, but he was still a few years away from sobriety and the fact that he wasn’t sober overshadowed his performance.

Third and fourth came back to back with Tropic Thunder which earned him his second academy award nomination and he was the all the talk of the awards that night even though he didn’t come home with a statue. He was now famously five years sober and clearly at the top of his acting talents and showing how great he was.

The fourth was Sherlock Holmes which earned him the golden globe and provided the opportunity for his peers to celebrate him and his new life and serious commitment to his career. It was an emotional yet very deserved moment.

1. Less Than Zero (1987)

Less Than Zero was the first time he was billed with Jr. attached to his name and the beginning of some of the legendary party stories for RDJ. this is where the career of Robert Downey Jr. REALLY began He has been quoted as saying this was the first time his drug and alcohol use spilled over into the production and not just during his downtime. Director Marek Kanievska told him and his co-star Andrew McCarthy (who battled his own addiction problems) to go out and party to get into character. This direction probably wasn’t the reason his abuses took such a foothold but more than likely they sped things up. The film was panned by critics and even the author of the source material book of the same name. It has since gained more appreciation in the 30 years since its release, but its foreshadowing can’t be ignored.

2. Chaplin (1992)

RDJ blew the doors off his portrayal of the legendary screen icon and gave Downey his first Oscar nomination, and it was well earned. Despite all his faults, he was able to transform himself completely. It would also turn out to be one of the last films for a long time that wouldn’t be plagued by his demons. Most critics and fans looked at Chaplin as the movie that showed what RDJ could have been.

3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

2003 is the year Downey got sober and finally stayed sober for which he credits his current wife and her support for him. Downey came to realize he couldn’t go anywhere other than prison or the grave and he has famously said that he is allergic to drugs and alcohol, he always breaks out into handcuffs. It would still be two years before he would make an impact and headline a major motion picture and prove to people he was more committed to his career than to ruin it. The buddy picture that was written and directed by the writer of the massive hit Lethal Weapon had RDJ star alongside Val Kilmer and proved to be a highly underrated movie and showed Downey’s comedic brilliance.

4. Iron Man (2008)

The superhero resurgence and current domination can be traced to one film, Iron Man. The juggernaut of Marvel Comics becoming kings of the box office is where it is because RDJ WAS Tony Stark. Every embodiment of that character is deep inside him, and he OWNED it. He had been sober for five years and was still busting his butt to prove to be people his commitment to acting. He became the biggest star in the world with this movie and solidified himself as 100 percent back in the game.

It is wonderful to know that there is a whole generation of movie fans that will only know him at this point in his career. It is forever in his contracts that he has to provide insurance for the films in the case he was, and his salary is held until the film is complete. He will always have to fight his demons and in a sense will always be paying for his past but thankfully all movie fans he convinced us all that he is back. I am just glad the the life and career of Robert Downey Jr. is as of yet unfinished with much more to come.