Daniel Day-Lewis

Why Do People Hate Daniel Day-Lewis?

Daniel Day-Lewis is considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, renowned for his intense method acting and ability to fully immerse himself in his roles. However, despite his immense talent and three Academy Awards for Best Actor, Day-Lewis has also been a polarizing figure in Hollywood and with audiences.

This article will explore some of the key reasons why the acclaimed actor has inspired hatred and criticism from some people over the course of his career.

Method Acting Too Extreme?

One of the most common critiques of Day-Lewis is that his immersive approach to method acting is excessive and self-indulgent. For example, to play the disabled Christy Brown in My Left Foot, Day-Lewis spent months in a wheelchair and learned to paint and write with his toes.

For his role as Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans, he spent days alone in the woods and learned to live off the land. While admirers believe such dedication brings authenticity, detractors feel his extreme methods are overkill. There are stories of Day-Lewis staying in character constantly throughout filming, even with crew, which some consider pretentious.

Day-Lewis’ Extreme Dedication to Method Acting

  • Learned to paint and write with his toes for My Left Foot
  • Spent days alone in the woods for Last of the Mohicans
  • Stayed in a wheelchair for months for My Left Foot
  • Refused to break character even with crew

This extreme dedication to total immersion for his roles strikes some as self-important rather than praiseworthy.

Too Selective with Roles?

Another criticism of Day-Lewis is that he is too selective about taking on roles, which frustrates some in the industry. He is known as one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood, yet since 1997 he has only appeared in 6 feature films.

Day-Lewis has taken breaks of 5 or more years between projects at multiple points in his career. While admirers believe this selectiveness contributes to his acclaimed performances, others see it as snobbishness and feel he should take on more roles.

There is also a perception that the actor only takes on Oscar-bait films and not more mainstream projects, which likely adds to impressions of elitism.

Daniel Day-Lewis’ Selective Filmography

  • Only 6 films since 1997
  • 5+ year breaks between projects
  • Oscar-bait films vs. mainstream movies

This selective approach, while allowing for dedication to roles, also rubs some in Hollywood and audiences the wrong way.

Too Intense On Set?

Stories of Daniel Day-Lewis’ intensity and near-obsessive focus on set have led to perceptions that he is difficult to work with. There are multiple accounts of Day-Lewis remaining in character constantly throughout filming, even with the crew and other actors.

While admirers believe this brings authenticity, reports suggest his demeanor and demands have at times alienated and disturbed collaborators. He allegedly taunted extras on Gangs of New York to get desired reactions, which some considered excessive.

Day-Lewis’ perfectionism is also renowned, with the actor known to require numerous takes before being satisfied. There are stories of entire sets being rebuilt multiple times to accommodate his demands. While such dedication can enable great art, it likely means he is a trying collaborator for directors and crews.

Day-Lewis’ Intense On-Set Reputation

  • Remaining in character constantly
  • Taunting extras to get reactions
  • Requiring numerous takes for perfectionism
  • Demanding sets be rebuilt to meet desires

For some collaborators, this intense approach crosses over into unenjoyable obsessiveness.

Too Much Credit for Physical Transformation?

As an acclaimed method actor, Daniel Day-Lewis is renowned for his physical transformations into characters. However, some believe he gets more credit than warranted in this area.

For example, his acclaimed portrayal of Abraham Lincoln required him to alter his appearance to look like the former president. But hair, make-up, and prosthetics likely did most of the work. Similarly, for roles like Christy Brown in My Left Foot which required him to play disabled, the actor had assistance from crews to transform his look.

While Day-Lewis’ dedication to each role is admirable, some believe too much praise is given for the external transformations, which are products of entire production teams. This likely contributes to a sentiment that he is overhyped or overrated.

Day-Lewis’ Physical Transformations

  • Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln) – hair, make-up, prosthetics
  • Christy Brown (My Left Foot) – help from crew for disabled look
  • Hawkeye (Last of the Mohicans) – hair, make-up for period piece

These transformations rely heavily on entire production teams, possibly overstating Day-Lewis’ individual contribution.

Is He Overrated?

Given Daniel Day-Lewis’ reputation as one of the greatest actors alive, a contrarian view has emerged that he is overrated. While an acclaimed performer, some believe other actors display similar dedication without such extreme methods or reputation.

The actor’s selective filmography, relatively small output, and reliance on physical transformation are cited by detractors as evidence he is excessively praised. There is a sense that Academy voters are too enamored with his serious approach to acting.

Admirers believe Day-Lewis deserves praise for pushing his craft further than others and that his acclaim is well-earned. But dissenting voices argue other great actors deliver similarly impressive performances through less gimmicky methods.

Arguments That Day-Lewis is Overrated

  • Other dedicated actors don’t use such extreme methods
  • Selective output and small filmography
  • Too much praise for physical transformations
  • Academy voters overly enamored with serious approach
  • Less “gimmicky” actors deliver impressive performances

This debate over whether Daniel Day-Lewis is over-appreciated continues among cinephiles.

Is Daniel Day-Lewis Overrated?

Renowned for incredible acting ability and rangeOther dedicated actors achieve greatness via less extreme methods
Has won 3 Best Actor Oscars, showing peers’ admirationSelective output means limited roles to judge quality by
Fully inhabits even small roles like “Butcher” in Gangs of New YorkReliance on physical transformation is overpraised
Serious approach leads to critically acclaimed performancesPerception Academy voters buy into “serious actor” reputation
Pushes boundaries of immersive acting further than peersHas air of pretentiousness or being overhyped

How Does He Compare to Other Great Actors?

To judge whether the animosity towards Daniel Day-Lewis is deserved, it is helpful to compare his career and methods to other renowned actors. Here are how some of Day-Lewis’ contemporaries and acting legends stack up:

Tom Hanks – Likeable presence onscreen. Highly dedicated but doesn’t remain in character constantly off-camera. More prolific output and varied roles than Day-Lewis. Six Oscar nominations and 2 wins for serious and comedic roles. Verdict: Everyman appeal contrasts with Day-Lewis’ intensity.

Christian Bale – Also renowned for dedication and physical transformations. Dropped 63 pounds for The Machinist and bulked up for American Psycho. But avoids extremes like staying wheelchair-bound for months. Reportedly polite with crews despite intensity. Verdict: Dedicated method actor but minus Day-Lewis’ extremes.

Daniel Day-Lewis vs. Other Acting Greats

ActorDedicationOutputAwardsActing Style
Daniel Day-LewisExtreme method dedicationSelective filmography3 Best Actor winsUltra-intense, stays in character constantly
Tom HanksHighly dedicatedProlific output2 Oscars for serious & comedic rolesLikable everyman on & off screen
Christian BaleVery dedicated method actorMore roles than Day-Lewis1 Oscar winIntense physical transformations but less extreme methods

This comparison helps explain why Day-Lewis rubs some the wrong way – his hyper-serious approach contrasts with many peers’ flexibility and likability.


In examining why Daniel Day-Lewis has inspired significant backlash despite his acting ability, several factors stand out:

  • His extreme dedication to method acting is seen by some as self-indulgent rather than praiseworthy
  • High selectivity with roles frustrates industry peers and audiences alike
  • Intense demeanor on set has led to difficult collaborations at times
  • Over-credit for physical transformations achieved with help
  • Contrarians who argue he is overhyped or overrated
  • Serious acting style contrasts with the flexibility and likability of peers

Yet Day-Lewis’ supporters argue this meticulous approach is key to his ability to inhabit roles so fully. Overall, the animosity towards the acclaimed actor appears driven by a combination of discomfort with his obsessive methods and a perception that his seriousness is pretentious and humorless.

While his immense talent is undeniable, Daniel Day-Lewis provokes such strong reactions due to his avant-garde approach and deification by admirers, making him a polarizing figure in film. But this same uniqueness helps explain his status as one of the most acclaimed actors of the modern era.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does Daniel Day-Lewis stay in character even when not filming?

Day-Lewis believes that fully inhabiting a role requires complete immersion at all times. He reportedly stays in character constantly throughout filming so the habits, physicality, and mentality of his roles become second nature.

While this intense dedication frustrates some crew and collaborators, Day-Lewis feels it allows him to deliver more authentic performances.

What kind of preparation does Daniel Day-Lewis do for his roles?

Depending on the character, Day-Lewis engages in extensive preparatory work such as learning new skills, changing his physique, adopting different speech patterns and gestures, and more.

Examples include learning to paint with his toes for My Left Foot, training as a butcher for Gangs of New York, and spending time in the wild for Last of the Mohicans. He is known for extensively researching time periods and real figures he portrays.

Has Daniel Day-Lewis ever broken character on set?

There are a few accounts of Day-Lewis briefly breaking character in moments of frustration during filming, before resuming his disciplined method approach.

However, he maintains such complete immersion in his roles while cameras are rolling that visible breaks in character are extremely rare. His commitment is so consistent that it reportedly frustrates some collaborators.

What was Daniel Day-Lewis’ most impressive physical transformation?

Day-Lewis losing significant weight for My Left Foot drew praise for his dedication. However, his transformation into Abraham Lincoln using prosthetics, make-up, and affectations was particularly striking and helped him fully inhabit the former president’s persona. He remained in a Lincoln frame of mind consistently throughout filming.

Why does Daniel Day-Lewis take so many breaks between films?

Day-Lewis is selective about taking on roles and needs time between projects to recharge. He has explained that the intensity of his acting methods drains him, requiring multi-year breaks before he ready to immerse himself fully in another character.

Day-Lewis also spends time with his family and takes on other creative pursuits like shoemaking during his breaks from acting.

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