There’s less than a month to go until Phantom Thread, the latest Paul Thomas Anderson film, opens in theaters, finally answering our burning questions about what exactly is going on between Daniel Day-Lewis’ mannered dressmaker and his muse who realizes she might want some different clothes. But regardless of the outcome of the story, the real-life one behind the scenes of the film has already been resolved: Day-Lewis publicly announced he was quitting acting following this film. “But why, Daniel?” you may wonder out loud, especially if you have a large cardboard cutout of the actor in his outfit from Last Of The Mohicans next to your bed. Well, now you have your answer: Making this film really bummed him out.
Not for any discernible reason, necessarily. In a new interview with W, Day-Lewis tries his best to articulate the cause of his early retirement from acting, and it seems to come down to some indefinable ennui he experienced as a result of making the movie:
“Before making the film, I didn’t know I was going to stop acting. I do know that Paul and I laughed a lot before we made the movie. And then we stopped laughing because we were both overwhelmed by a sense of sadness. That took us by surprise: We didn’t realize what we had given birth to. It was hard to live with. And still is.”
It’s weirded him out so much, he hasn’t even seen the final picture he’s ever planning to make. “Not wanting to see the film is connected to the decision I’ve made to stop working as an actor,” he adds. “But it’s not why the sadness came to stay. That happened during the telling of the story, and I don’t really know why.” He then proceeds to deliver one of the less-pompous uses of “artist” imaginable, at least when delivered by an actor talking about their craft, which can often otherwise be excruciating:
“I dread to use the overused word ‘artist,’ but there’s something of the responsibility of the artist that hung over me. I need to believe in the value of what I’m doing. The work can seem vital. Irresistible, even. And if an audience believes it, that should be good enough for me. But, lately, it isn’t.”
He explains that he put out the public announcement as a way of pre-empting any attempts to draw him back in, even though he must surely know that won’t dissuade anyone who wants him in their movie from trying. And he genuinely doesn’t seem to know what he’s going to do next, admitting he plans to take some time and figure it out, with no rush to dive in to any new career.
Nice lack-of-work if you can get it, honestly.