Over the last year or two, we’ve lost many greats in the entertainment industry; so many, in fact, that last year many people began to curse 2016. Last week, movie fans expressed surprise and dismay over the “loss” of another great talent, thankfully not to death, but to early retirement. I am referring, of course, to Daniel Day-Lewis, the phenomenal actor and three-time “Best Actor” Academy Award-winner. Now, I am far from an expert on Mr. Day-Lewis’s career. In fact, I haven’t even seen all his films; but somehow the news of his retirement struck a chord with me, and created in me a sense of kinship with him.
The film business is an odd one. It revolves around big deal-makers, personalities, fads, trends, marketing, press, paparazzi, egos, and fans. The life of a celebrity can be a non-stop whirlwind. I have glimpsed this life, tasted it momentarily, longed for it’s fruits, and loathed it’s superficiality. I understand the need for a break from it. I see why stars choose to make their homes elsewhere than “Hollywood.” Long before my wife Marion and I departed for the rocky coast of Maine, when I was living in the San Fernando Valley, a largely residential area of Los Angeles that is also a mecca for the film and television industry - and not coincidentally, the “porn” film capital of the world - it was difficult to go anywhere without overhearing conversations about the entertainment business. Screenwriters drank coffee at delicatessen counters, agents interrupted lunch conversation to take business calls, waitresses chatted about their latest commercial audition. The “industry” was ubiquitous. It’s no wonder that stars like George Clooney, Johnny Depp, and Morgan Freeman have chosen to live in Italy, France or Mississippi. It beats having fans rummaging through their trash for souvenirs, or being photographed by paparazzi each time they step out the door. Some people, particularly the paparazzi, say this “comes with the job.” They make the case that performers crave the attention, that it feeds their egos, that it promotes their careers, that they “owe it to their fans.” While it is true that some performers enjoy a certain amount of attention, I think most just want to do their job, perform their “craft,” and go home, to enjoy life with their families. To me, an actor “owes” us his best performance, that’s all.
Mr. Day-Lewis announced that he will be “retiring” to his farm in Ireland, in order to hone his farming skills and pursue stonemasonry. That sounds like both extremely hard work and a pretty idyllic life to me. Perhaps he’ll even create something in stone as memorable and long-lasting as his on-screen performances. I shall raise a creamy pint of Guinness to him, and wish him all the best.