My Left Foot (1989), Oscar/BAFTA win
Lewis won his first Oscar for playing Christy Brown, an Irish boy with artistic aspirations and a crippling handicap that forced him to paint with only his left foot. Lewis beat out Kenneth Branagh (Henry V), Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy), Robin Williams (Dead Poets Society), and Tom Cruise (Born on the Fourth of July). Lewis also won the BAFTA that year, beating Dustin Hoffman, who somehow got snubbed for Rain Main. Lewis almost literally beat his competition with his hands (and one leg) tied behind his back.
My Left Foot (1989), Golden Globe loss
Of all the people to lose to, Tom Cruise? Really? Lewis had missed nominations for his previous films, but this was the first major award that he legitimately lost to another actor. If it's any consolation, odds are low that Cruise will beat Lewis this year for his starring role in Jack Reacher.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992), BAFTA loss
Lewis was up for a BAFTA for his role as Nathaniel Poe in The Last of the Mohicans, a decidedly more "active" role than his previous one. He lost to Robert Downey Jr., who played Charlie Chaplin in the biopic Chaplin. Grudge-match alert: Downey would go on to steal another prize from Lewis in 2009.
In the Name of the Father (1993), Oscar/BAFTA/Golden Globe loss
Lewis paired up again with Jim Sheridan (who directed him in My Left Foot) for another role based on a true story. Lewis' turn as Gerry Conlon, one of four men falsely convicted for the IRA Guildford pub bombings, earned him Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, but he ended up losing to Tom Hanks (Philadelphia) and lost the BAFTA to Anthony Hopkins (Shadowlands).
The Boxer (1997), Golden Globe loss
While Lewis continued to win loads of minor awards throughout his career, his dry spell at the major awards shows continued into 1997, when he lost the Golden Globe to Peter Fonda for Ulee's Gold, in which Fonda played a beekeeper. Following The Boxer, Lewis took a five-year break from acting.
Gangs of New York (2002), BAFTA win
Lewis' return to the big screen came in the oversize, pinstriped pants of Bill "the Butcher" Cutting in 1860s New York. Both chilling and a little batty, Cutting was a good proxy for Lewis' increasingly odd personal life. Gangs was both a return to form and the start of Lewis' unparalleled awards-winning streak. He managed to beat out the much favored Adrien Brody (The Pianist) and Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt).
Gangs of New York (2002), Oscar/Golden Globe loss
Well, almost. Lewis lost the Oscar to Brody and his Golden Globe to Nicholson that same year. It was hard to tell who was more surprised by the win: Brody, as a first-time nominee, or Nicholson who, on valium, said he thought he had made a comedy.
There Will Be Blood (2007), Oscar/BAFTA/Golden Globe win
There will also be awards. In 2007, Lewis decided to win everything, with Best Actor trophies at the Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTAs for his role as Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood. The epic tale of oil prospecting in Southern California was enough to beat Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd), Denzel Washington (American Gangster), and Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah).
Nine (2009), Golden Globe loss
Lewis' turn as Guido Contini, the womanizing director in the musical Nine, was, unfortunately, not for the better. He should have stuck to drinking milkshakes and killing Irishmen. Lewis lost to one-time rival Robert Downey Jr. for, of all things, Sherlock Holmes. It's not all bad, Downey's pompous speech—"Avatar was going to take us to the cleaners. If they didn't have me, they didn't have a shot"—was kind of worth it.
Lincoln (2012) - ??
Lewis may not have it in the bag just yet, but things are looking fortuitous. He will have to beat Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Denzel Washington (Flight), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), and Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook). Maybe the man isn't invincible, but he's—scarily—only getting better. What do you do when Lewis has a movie coming out? Perhaps hope he's not playing a Founding Father.
Oscar Watch: The Wins and Losses of Daniel Day-Lewis
In case you haven't heard, Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar this year for "Lincoln." What's that? Nominations not out? It's okay, we'll wait.
In case you haven't heard, Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar this year for Lincoln. What's that? The red carpet hasn't been rolled out yet? It's okay, we'll wait. Since 1997, Lewis has won 73 acting awards. And we're not even counting Lincoln, so yeah, feel free to add another Oscar to the list. (Lewis first became an award-winning heavyweight after his 1989 Oscar for Best Actor in My Left Foot.) Here, we track the golden boy's most significant award battles. And, yes, he does seem to be getting better with age.
—Zachary Sniderman (@zsniderman)
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