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Daniel Day-Lewis Breaks Silence on Retiring From Acting: ‘I Have Great Sadness’

The three-time Oscar winner says he wasn't planning on retiring from acting before cameras started rolling on "Phantom Thread."

Movie lovers have been mourning the upcoming loss of Daniel Day-Lewis from the acting world ever since his representative revealed in June that he would no longer be acting after Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.” 

Day-Lewis is notoriously private and has remained silent on his planned retirement since the news first broke, but the three-time Oscar winner has finally shared his thoughts in a new interview with W Magazine.

“Before making the film, I didn’t know I was going to stop acting,” Day-Lewis told W. “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.”

According to W, Day-Lewis only spoke about his retirement plans with his wife, filmmaker and writer Rebecca Miller. The actor had considered retiring in the past, which is why he often took such long breaks in between film roles, but a director or a character would always find a way to spark a newfound interest in him and bring him back to the profession. With “Phantom Thread,” the fashion world and designing proved surprisingly addictive (“It got its hooks into me,” he says), but the shoot proved more difficult and challenging than expected. Day-Lewis doesn’t elaborate on what happened because he can’t even “figure it out” himself yet, although he does mention that he won’t see the movie as a result.

“I haven’t figured it out,” Day-Lewis said. “But it’s settled on me, and it’s just there. Not wanting to see the film is connected to the decision I’ve made to stop working as an actor. 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.”

Part of the reason Day-Lewis had his representative go public with a statement announcing his retirement in the first place was so that he’d have a harder time getting out of it. Unlike the past where he would contemplate retiring only for a role to bring him right back, he wanted to “draw a line” this time and make concrete plans to phase out of Hollywood.

“I knew it was uncharacteristic to put out a statement,” Day-Lewis said. “But I did want to draw a line. I didn’t want to get sucked back into another project. All my life, I’ve mouthed off about how I should stop acting, and I don’t know why it was different this time, but the impulse to quit took root in me, and that became a compulsion. It was something I had to do.”

When asked if he feels better now that he’s announced his retirement and is sticking to it, Day-Lewis responded: “Not yet. I have great sadness. And that’s the right way to feel. How strange would it be if this was just a gleeful step into a brand-new life. I’ve been interested in acting since I was 12 years old, and back then, everything other than the theater—that box of light—was cast in shadow. When I began, it was a question of salvation. Now, I want to explore the world in a different way.”

Early reports suggested Day-Lewis wanted to start a career in fashion, but he says those rumors aren’t exactly true. Day-Lewis doesn’t have any finite plans set for the future as of now, but one thing he wants to take up is boxing. “Who knows?” he asks about what the future hold. “I won’t know which way to go for a while. But I’m not going to stay idle. I don’t fear the stony silence.”

Day-Lewis’ final performance in “Phantom Thread” can be seen in select theaters Christmas day.