In his earlier years, the Gangs of New York star considered himself a fan of others like Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood
John Wayne may have cultivated a large fan base thanks to his many popular Western films. But Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis wasn’t too fond of the film star.
Daniel Day-Lewis wanted to become an American actor after seeing Robert De Niro’s ‘Taxi Driver’
Day-Lewis is widely regarded as one of Hollywood’s greatest actors and an inspiration to many. But even the often praised veteran has found inspiration from some of his own contemporaries. Day-Lewis had his sights set on acting from a young age. However, becoming an American actor couldn’t have been further from his mind. In England at the time, Day-Lewis noticed that style of acting was looked down on by his fellow English actors.
“Where I come from, it was a heresy to say you wanted to be in movies, leave alone American movies,” Day-Lewis said in a 2007 interview with The New York Times. “We were all encouraged to believe that the classics of the theater were the fiery hoops through which you’d have to pass if you were going to have any self-esteem as a performer. It never occurred to me that that was the case.”
The classic Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver was one of the movies that showed a more alluring side of American cinema.
“I saw Taxi Driver five or six times in the first week, and I was astonished by its sheer visceral beauty. I just kept going back – I didn’t know America, but that was a glimpse of what America might be, and I realized that, contrary to expectation, I wanted to tell American stories,” he said.
He was also completely enamored by Robert De Niro’s performance in the feature.
“The world he offered in his performances had a palpable humanity. I was utterly sure that he was that man in Taxi Driver. I have no idea by what means he arrived at that but, I dare say, at some point, he convinced himself that he was that man, too,” Day-Lewis said.
De Niro wasn’t the only actor that Day-Lewis enjoyed watching. In his earlier years, the Gangs of New York star considered himself a fan of others like Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood.
“I used to go to all-night screenings of his movies,” Day-Lewis said about Eastwood. “I’d stagger out at 5 in the morning, trying to be loose-limbed and mean and taciturn.
Day-Lewis also enjoyed his fair share of Westerns, but he wasn’t a fan of the genre overall. The actor thought Gary Cooper’s High Noon was an exceptional Western. But in contrast, John Wayne was a Western actor, and perhaps an actor in general, that Day-Lewis never took a liking to.
“High Noon means a lot to me – I love the purity and the honesty, I love Gary Cooper in that film, the idea of the last man standing,” Day-Lewis once wrote in The New York Times. “I do not like John Wayne: I find it hard to watch him. I just never took to him.”
Jimmy Stewart was another actor who Day-Lewis didn’t like seeing in Westerns.
“I love him, just not as a cowboy,” he clarified.
How John Wayne reacted to criticisms toward his acting
Day-Lewis might not have been the only person who was critical of Wayne. Even back during Wayne’s active years as an actor, he was well aware of the criticisms leveled at him. In a 1969 interview Wayne did with Roger Ebert, the True Grit star tried to remind others of his range as a performer. But at the same time, he thought all of his characters being similar was a strength rather than a weakness.
“Of course, they give me that John Wayne stuff so much, claim I always play the same role,” Wayne said. “Seems like nobody remembers how different the fellows were in The Quiet Man. or Iwo Jima, or Yellow Ribbon, where I was 35 playing a man of 65. To stay a star, you have to bring along some of your own personality. Thousands of good actors can carry a scene, but a star has to carry the scene and still, without intruding, allow some of his character into it.”