Why Daniel Day-Lewis quit acting without a plan

"I want to explore the world in a different way," he said.

ByMICHAEL ROTHMAN
November 28, 2017, 5:07 PM

— -- Earlier this year and to the chagrin of movie fans everywhere, Daniel Day-Lewis announced he was walking away from acting after an illustrious career, which includes three best actor Oscar wins.

At the time, no reason was given for the departure from the craft he elevated for decades. But in a new interview for W Magazine, Day-Lewis, 60, opens up about why he is retiring, even without a plan for what's next.

The icon's last film will be "Phantom Thread," taking on the role of couturier ­Reynolds Woodcock, where once again the artist fully immersed himself into the character, even learning to sew and studying the lives of designers. The film, out on Dec. 25, is written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

"Before making the film, I didn’t know I was going to stop acting," Day-Lewis tells W. "I do know that Paul and I laughed a lot before we made the movie. And then we stopped laughing because we were both overwhelmed by a sense of sadness. That took us by surprise: We didn’t realize what we had given birth to. It was hard to live with. And still is.”

The actor explains that "the fashion world got its hooks into me" and that the process of getting into character really affected him in a way he still can't explain. He also hasn't seen the film and won't.

PHOTO: Daniel Day-Lewis as William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting in a scene from the film, "Gangs of New York."
Daniel Day-Lewis as William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting in a scene from the film, "Gangs of New York."
Miramax

"I haven’t figured it out. But it’s settled on me, and it’s just there. Not wanting to see the film is connected to the decision I’ve made to stop working as an actor," he added. "But it’s not why the sadness came to stay. That happened during the telling of the story, and I don’t really know why.”

A clearer reason came later in the interview when he said "I need to believe in the value of what I’m doing" and that lately just because fans adore his performances hasn't been good enough for him.

This also isn't the first time he's wanted to walk away from his craft and he said his June announcement was a way to make the choice final.

PHOTO: Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in a scene from the film, "Lincoln."
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in a scene from the film, "Lincoln."
DreamWorks, Twentieth Century Fox

"I didn’t want to get sucked back into another project. All my life, I’ve mouthed off about how I should stop acting, and I don’t know why it was different this time, but the impulse to quit took root in me, and that became a compulsion," he added.

Still, there's sadness in his choice, yet he knows for sure, "I want to explore the world in a different way.”

"I won’t know which way to go for a while," he said. "But I’m not going to stay idle.”

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events