When Daniel Day-Lewis talks about acting, he often uses the phrase "taking on another life", because due to his intense preparation process, that's very much what he's doing. He's not just creating a character, but becoming another person entirely - seeing, feeling, speaking and even learning how to earn a living utilizing that fictional individual's craft.
For Phantom Thread - Paul Thomas Anderson's portrait of tormented fashion artist Reynolds Woodcock - Day-Lewis took up a new skill: stitching designer garments. Speaking with W Magazine, Day-Lewis detailed how he remade a Balenciaga dress from scratch, while his wife (director Rebecca Miller) acted as his model:
“The Balenciaga dress was very simple. Or at least it looked very simple until I had to figure out a way to make it and then realized, My God, this is incredibly complicated. There is nothing more beautiful in all the arts than something that appears simple. And if you try to do any goddamn thing in your life, you know how impossible it is to achieve that effortless simplicity. Rebecca was very patient. The code that I had to crack was a very particular gusset in the armpit. You couldn’t tell from the photos how the gusset was designed. Rebecca has worn the dress. It’s very pretty.”
First off: that's an incredibly sweet story, as opposed to apprenticing with a butcher so that he could play Bill the Butcher in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, or learning to track and skin animals for Michael Mann's Last of the Mohicans. But it's also reminiscent of the time Day-Lewis disappeared for five years in 1997, only to settle down in Florence, Italy and learn to cobble shoes from master craftsman Stefano Bemer. This wasn't for a role, mind you, but simply because Daniel Day-Lewis was fascinated by the tradecraft (and, as legend has it, gave Bemer acting lessons in return).
So, now that he's retired from performing, it's definitely going to be cool to see what hobbies the legendary actor takes up next. Maybe we'll hear about a boutique in Paris one day with Day-Lewis' dresses in the window. Stranger things have happened.