×

Transformative power of Day-Lewis astonishes

Britannia Awards 2012: Stanley Kubrick Award - Daniel Day-Lewis

It’s the supreme task of any actor to get people to see beyond the body, the clothes, the movements and the voice, to the person inside.

Two-time Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis has so effectively made his career out of this ability, this gift for embodiment of character, that BAFTA/LA has bestowed him with the Stanley Kubrick honor for excellence in film at this year’s Britannia Awards.

In the words of BAFTA/LA exec director Don Haber, Day-Lewis is “the consummate actor.”

The London-born thesp’s versatility astonished from the beginning, when in 1986 he played both a priggish Edwardian fop in “A Room With a View” and a sweet-faced, punk-era gay lover in “My Beautiful Laundrette.” Awards recognition quickly followed, with his first Oscar coming a few years later for his portrayal of palsy-stricken poet Christy Brown in “My Left Foot,” a performance dazzling in its technical virtuosity but marked by the depth of personality, intelligence and feeling Day-Lewis projected in a physically hamstrung man.

The sharply transformative rigor that would become a hallmark of Day-Lewis’ is part of his mystique and his appeal.

“If you watch the way he acts, it’s got to be exhausting,” says Haber. “But that’s what the audience really loves in his performances. Very few actors today have that range.”

The ’90s saw him tackle projects as diverse as “Last of the Mohicans,” “In the Name of the Father” and “The Crucible.” But as Day-Lewis became choosier, his chameleon tendencies became ever more stunning. In the past 10 years, what’s yanked him out of reclusiveness are a handful of iconic American roles: the swaggering 19th-century thug protecting his turf (“Gangs of New York”), the ruthless entrepreneur with a thief’s heart (“There Will Be Blood,” his second Oscar-winning perf), and this year, in “Lincoln,” the 16th president, a weary politician trying to merge the ideological dream of ending slavery with the often unpleasant pragmatism of the democratic process, all for the good of a wartorn country.

“Lincoln” screenwriter Tony Kushner described the effect of Day-Lewis playing Lincoln as a “double image,” a case of taking in performer and subject simultaneously.

“Everyone on set had the same experience of moments watching the video camera,” Kushner explains, “where he would move his head slightly and he was Daniel Day-Lewis, and he would move his head another way and it looked like a Alexander Gardner photograph of Lincoln.”

He may not work as often as we’d like, but when he does, the commitment level is invariably astounding. Notes Haber: “No matter who he’s playing, you believe him.”

Britannia Awards 2012
John Schlesinger Award – Quentin Tarantino | Stanley Kubrick Award – Daniel Day-Lewis | British Artist of the Year – Daniel Craig | Charlie Caplin Award – Matt Stone & Trey Parker | Albert R. Broccoli Award – Will Wright
Britannia Awards discovers jolly-good TV home

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Taron Egerton Elton John Rocketman Live

    Elton John and Taron Egerton Duet at 'Rocketman' Awards Season Event at the Greek Theatre

    “Rocketman” has officially launched into awards season. Paramount hosted a screening of the film with a live-performance of the score by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and a headlining performance by Elton John and the film’s star Taron Egerton. John and Egerton — who is in contention for best actor for his portrayal of the singer [...]

  • Hailee Steinfeld Dickinson Premiere

    Hailee Steinfeld, Jane Krakowski on What Modern Women Can Learn From Emily Dickinson

    Emily Dickinson lived in the 1800s, but if you ask the team behind Apple TV Plus’ upcoming series, “Dickinson,” her story is more current than ever. Hailee Steinfeld stars in the the modern-day retelling of the poet’s young life. The actress — who makes her first full-time foray into television with the role and also [...]

  • Don Cheadle

    ACLU Bill of Rights Gala to Honor Don Cheadle, Feature Appearances by Selena Gomez, Regina Hall

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California will honor “Avengers: Endgame” and “Black Monday” star Don Cheadle at the organization’s annual Bill of Rights dinner on Nov. 17 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Cheadle will be recognized for his activist work as an advocate for racial and gender equality, immigration reform, reproductive and LGBTQ [...]

  • Helen Mirren attends the LA Premiere

    Why Helen Mirren Considers Catherine the Great to Be 'Superhuman'

    It’s no secret that Dame Helen Mirren has a knack for nailing regal roles. Following her Oscar-winning on-screen reign as Queen Elizabeth II back in 2006, the thespian brings yet another powerful ruler to life in HBO’s limited mini-series “Catherine the Great.” Just as she does on the small screen as Russian Empress Catherine II, [...]

  • Taika Waititi Jojo Rabbit Premiere

    Why Director Taika Waititi Decided to Play Adolf Hitler in 'Jojo Rabbit'

    “Fox Searchlight blackmailed me into doing it,” Taika Waititi told Variety of playing Adolf Hilter in “Jojo Rabbit” at the film’s premiere at American Legion Post 43 on Tuesday night in Hollywood. Staying mum when asked which other actors had been on his wish list to play the role, Waititi explained why he eventually decided [...]

  • Jessica Biel Limetown Premiere

    Why 'Limetown' Star & Producer Jessica Biel Thought the Show Was Based on a True Story

    In a world of increasingly outlandish headlines, the story behind “Limetown” — in which an entire community in rural Tennessee disappears overnight — seems plausible. Even Jessica Biel, who executive produces and stars in the Facebook Watch television adaptation of the hit 2015 podcast, was initially convinced that it was real. “I just thought I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content