The career of actor Daniel Day-Lewis is littered with myth and legend and barely-possible facts. Day-Lewis’ religious devotion to the Method — the full-immersion preparation for an acting role — has created a whole series of fantastical stories. When he played a painter with cerebral palsy in My Left Foot, he really never left his wheelchair. When he played a colonial adventurer in The Last of the Mohicans, he really lived in the wilderness and carved his own canoe. When he played a man working on a bad movie in Nine, he was really working on a bad movie. But one tale from early in Day-Lewis’ career crosses the line into pure mysticism. Back in 1989, Day-Lewis was performing the lead in Hamlet in London. He left in the middle of a performance — supposedly because he had actually seen the ghost of his dead father onstage.
It’s a great story, all the better because Day-Lewis has never really talked about the event before. But in his new interview with Time, Day-Lewis breaks his silence about Hamlet. “To some extent I probably saw my father’s ghost every night,” he said, “Because of course if you’re working in a play like Hamlet, you explore everything through your own experience.” He continues:
All that being said, Day-Lewis clarifies: “But I don’t remember seeing any ghosts of my father on that dreadful night!” So, to recap: Daniel Day-Lewis did not see his father’s ghost while performing Hamlet, but only because he sees his father’s ghost all of the time — for indeed, do we not all see our father’s ghost every time we look in the mirror, for are we not all diffuse reflections of those who came before us; indeed, is not every man just a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. Which reminds me: Day-Lewis pointedly does not address the rumor that, during a 1987 performance of Macbeth, he really killed everyone else in the cast.
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