Watch Daniel Day-Lewis in an Early TV Role, Before His Years of Oscar-Winning Film Work (Flashback)
By Stacy Lambe
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Nominated for Best Actor at the 90th Academy Awards, Daniel Day-Lewis’ role as renowned fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread marks his final acting gig as the longtime actor prepares for retirement from the screen. Whether he can top frontrunner Gary Oldman during Sunday’s ceremony remains to be seen, but there’s no denying Day-Lewis’ onscreen talents.
Winner of three Academy Awards -- for his work in My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood and Lincoln-- Day-Lewis has been dubbed the “world’s greatest actor” by Time magazine and finds himself in an exclusive club of actors to win three Oscars. If he takes home a fourth, he’ll tie Katharine Hepburn as the most awarded actor of all time.
Given that his first Oscar came in 1989 for My Left Foot, shortly after acclaimed performances in The Unbearable Lightness of Being and My Beautiful Laundrette, Day-Lewis seemingly arrived in Hollywood as the generation’s next great leading man. In fact, he followed his first Oscar win with The Last of the Mohicans, The Age of Innocence and In the Name of the Father, which earned him his second nomination and quickly affirmed his place onscreen.
But despite his esteemed Hollywood run, he, like any famed English actor, got his start on TV on a BBC drama. For the likes of Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren, it was TV adaptations of Shakespeare plays, for Ian McKellen it was a David Copperfield serial, and for Judi Dench, it was episodes of Festival and Z-Cars. And for Day-Lewis, it was TV films Artemis 81 and How Many Miles to Babylon as well as his one and only series, My Brother Jonathan.
Returning to TV via BritBox on Saturday, March 3, the five-part, 1985 miniseries sees Day-Lewis playing idealist young doctor Jonathan Dakkers, who is forced to give up his surgical dreams to help out as a physician in England’s coal country around the time of World War I.
Debuting the same year he arrived in Hollywood with A Room With a View and My Beautiful Laundrette, it would mark his brief tenure on TV. The following year, he starred in the TV film The Insurance Man before focusing solely on a film career, which has gone on to include The Crucible and Gangs of New York.
Over 30 years later, Phantom Thread marks the end of Day-Lewis’ 38-year screen career following last summer’s announcement that he’s set to retire. “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,” his rep confirmed in a statement to ET.
As for what drew him to his final role, Day-Lewis said it was a fascination with the “worlds of couture designers that were working in London during the '50s,” adding that “Woodcock's world, the place that he comes from, was something that we could occupy and use that through which to tell a story.”