He was a child vandal and later a thug. He was the white adopted son of Indians. He was wrongfully convicted of an IRA bombing. A gentleman lawyer, he was the heir to a prominent New York City family. He was a gay man in an interracial relationship. He was a farmer, a tavern keeper and a boxer. He was the brutal leader of a street gang and a talented filmmaker.
He was a painter who – disabled due to being afflicted with cerebral palsy – paints using his left foot. He was an oil tycoon and perhaps most notably he became president of the United States.
This is a truly incredible list of accomplishments for one individual – and it is only a partial list. How can one person do so much? Is it this extensive list that makes actor Daniel Day-Lewis this Friday’s Fearless Brand? On the contrary, it is because he is a fearless brand that he has successfully played so many diverse and powerful roles.
Fearless brands consistently combine passion and competence to achieve stratospheric success.
Daniel Day-Lewis is one of three actors to win three Oscars. He is the only actor to win each of his Oscars in the Best Actor category. His first and most recent Oscars were awarded twenty-one years apart. Day-Lewis has performed his craft at an exceptionally high level over an extensive span of time. As impressive as his acting accomplishments are he was originally determined to pursue a different craft.
Born in London, his father was a Poet Laureate – his mother an actress. Having grown up in South London, he coped by adopting the behavior and accent of the area. Day-Lewis refers to himself during that time as a ‘disorderly character’. He was sent to boarding school where he developed a keen interest in woodworking and acting.
He then transferred to a different school where his creative side was able to flourish. He decided to make cabinet making his career but his bid to become an apprentice was rejected. With that his acting career became his focus.
He knew he had the talent to be a good actor and definitely had the passion to match his talent. What has made Day-Lewis so successful is his total commitment – his conviction – to his craft.
Day-Lewis is the consummate method actor. He studies his role and then lives it. For his role in The Last of the Mohicans he began weight training to achieve the optimum physical presence, learned how to live off the land, how to make a canoe and carried a long rifle throughout the production.
His first Oscar was for his role of Christy Brown, the handicapped painter and writer in the movie My Left Foot. In preparation he made numerous visits to a clinic where he befriended several handicapped people. During production he would not break character remaining in his wheelchair even when not filming. Crew members had to assist him in navigating the various impediments on set – often having to lift him and the wheelchair over cables.
For The Ballad of Jack and Rose in which he played a dying man filled with regret over his life he moved out of his home to live alone. He wanted to ‘live’ the desperation his character was experiencing.
He caught pneumonia while filming Gangs of New York yet refused to wear a heavier coat as it wasn’t in character. He studied as a butcher apprentice and maintained his character’s New York accent full-time for the same role.
Day-Lewis is very selective about the roles he will accept because of his commitment to the character he will play. He only agreed to play Lincoln after Spielberg had pursued him for years and then agreed to give him a full year to prepare. During that time he read over one hundred books on Lincoln and worked extensively with the makeup artist to achieve the closest likeness possible with ‘Honest Abe’.
Three year hiatuses between films are common for Day-Lewis because of the toll this commitment to his roles takes on him mentally and physically.
It is the combination of unbridled passion for his craft and complete commitment to making the most of his talent which makes Daniel Day-Lewis a fearless brand. It is the authenticity he strives for that allows him to deliver the greatest value possible to each role he plays. The greater the value delivered – the greater the profit received. For Day-Lewis, his true profit is represented by the three Oscars which he has won because they represent an appreciation for his work. I for one will not be surprised to see him win a fourth Best Actor Oscar – in three or four years.