This coming weekend, as we do annually, 40 members of the Toronto Film Critics Association will meet in a boardroom to eat, argue and impugn each other’s intelligence and taste, along the way to picking the year’s best movie, director, actors, etc.
The barrage of different cities’ critics award choices (New York kicked things off last week) dovetails with the various awards shows (Golden Globes, People’s Choice Award) and craft awards (Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild, etc.) that will be announced on virtually a daily basis, leading up to the Oscars in February.
But this isn’t a column about the Oscar race. We’ve got two whole months to talk about that. This is a column about actors retiring.
Last year, the TFCA gave its Best Actor nod to Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread, in which he played Jar Jar Binks. Kidding. Phantom Thread was the P.T. Anderson film where Day-Lewis played a 1950s dressmaker — a solid performance, but not his best in my opinion.
But it was billed as Day-Lewis’s last movie. And well, heck, you’ve got to give a guy a little retirement present.
There were skeptics who felt 60 was a little early for one of the world’s greatest actors to call it quits. But at the peak of his career, in the late 1990s, the mercurial Day-Lewis suddenly took three years off to apprentice as a shoemaker in Italy, with no indication that he would ever act again. So, it’s very possible we won’t see him onscreen for a long while, if at all.
This year, the putative awards-bound “retiree” is Robert Redford, who has hinted that his role as real-life “gentleman bank-robber” Forrest Tucker in The Old Man and the Gun will be his last. Even as he attempted later to walk that back, he said simply, “I shouldn’t have said that,” never denying the truth of what he said, but indicating that it put the wrong kind of attention on the film.
For the record, I quite liked The Old Man and the Gun. At 82, Redford is suitably twinkly-eyed playing a 70-something criminal who was usually described by charmed robbery victims as being “in his 50s or 60s.” It also has one of the best romances between older characters I’ve ever seen (a rather short film list, I’m afraid). His flirty scenes with Sissy Spacek, 68, are loaded with chemistry and warmth.
So, if this is the Sundance Kid’s adios, it’s not a bad one.
And I suppose 82 is a more believable retirement age than 60.
But we’re more used to older actors following the advice of Michael Caine (now 85), who described his attitude towards retirement to me thus: “You don’t quit the movies. The movies quit you.”