Award-winning British actor Daniel Day-Lewis, admired for his immersion in character and transformative roles, once opened up about his experiences with cinema and his opinions on iconic actors of the 20th century. A three-time Oscar winner with notable performances in My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood, the actor recounted his experiences of marathon cinema screenings – particularly his affinity for the films of Clint Eastwood.
“I used to go to all-night screenings of his movies,” the actor said, recalling his years as a young artist engrossed in cinema, eager to learn and absorb from the work of his predecessors. Eastwood, who has since become a highly regarded director in his own right, with a film currently in production, was particularly famed in the 1960s for his performances in the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone and the action flicks of Don Siegel.
Speaking to the New York Times back in 2007, Day-Lewis remembered how he would “Stagger out at 5 in the morning, trying to be loose-limbed and mean and taciturn”. Day-Lewis also admitted his admiration for the Naked Edge actor Gary Cooper, who worked prolifically throughout all the eras of cinema right up until his death in 1961. However, it was his turn in the classic Fred Zinnemann from 1952 that particularly resonated with the actor. “High Noon means a lot to me – I love the purity and the honesty,” Day-Lewis said.
On the solitary endurance of Cooper’s character, Marshall Will Kane, Day-Lewis continued: “I love Gary Cooper in that film, the idea of the last man standing”. His love for Cooper’s performance in the film, universally revered as a masterclass of acting, reveals an appreciation for nuanced and heartfelt portrayals that align with Day-Lewis’ acting style. High Noon made a significant impact at the time by refusing to pander to the standard formula of gruff, macho heroes, which leads us to the actor’s thoughts regarding the ‘All American’ hero, John Wayne.
Despite being regarded as a symbol of traditional Hollywood, Day-Lewis shared a somewhat different opinion on the True Grit actor. He stated: “I do not like John Wayne: I find it hard to watch him”. Wayne, who starred in over 165 films spanning 56 years and even made an unusual cameo in Star Wars, was famed for his distinct grumbling voice, stoic demeanour and purposeful, methodical gait.
Whilst Wayne’s 1956 film The Searchers is still considered one of the most remarkable pieces of cinema of all time, with films continuing to reference it to this day, the mythos surrounding the actor is slowly being eroded. We’ll never know whether it’s down to Wayne’s performance or his obscene remarks that illuminated just what a nasty character the man was, because all Day-Lewis had to confirm was, “I just never took to him”.
Watch the trailer High Noon below, featuring the actor Day-Lewis certainly did take to.