A unique triumph
On Sunday night, Daniel Day-Lewis achieved a feat unmatched by such august predecessors as Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson. A trio of actors has won three Oscars. But each of the others has had to settle for a win in the supporting category. Day-Lewis, who triumphed for his turn in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, is the first man to take home three awards for best actor.
Nicholson – with Walter Brennan, one of the other two actors to achieve a hat trick – required 12 nominations to secure two best actor prizes and a supporting statuette. Day-Lewis has managed his unique achievement with just five inclusions on the shortlist. The only surprise is that, despite the notorious cattiness of the Hollywood community, nobody appears to be griping. The phrase “best actor on the planet” sits quite comfortably on his famously modest shoulders.
We all thought we knew what Abraham Lincoln sounded like. Fine actors such as Henry Fonda and Walter Huston delivered turns that resonated with dark brown vowels. Day-Lewis confounded expectations by adopting a slightly squeaky voice that hinted at a concealed vulnerability. He inhabits the role so fully that all previous incarnations now seem to lack verisimilitude. He took similar chances in his previous two Oscar-winning roles: staying in character for weeks as Christy Brown in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot; daring to be outrageously big in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.
The son of Cecil Day-Lewis, Laois-born British poet laureate, the actor has lived in Wicklow for many years with his wife Rebecca Miller. Though raised in south London, he has taken Irish citizenship. It, therefore, requires no disingenuous flag-waving to claim his achievements for both Ireland and England. Unfortunately, we will have to wait a while to see if he can set further Oscar records. He recently announced that he is to rest from acting for five years. Few would begrudge him.