What Daniel Day-Lewis’s Method Acting Can Teach Writers

Daniel Day-Lewis is known for his method acting. He goes to extremes — which can sometimes bridge on dangerous — in order to fully experience the role he’s cast to play, including his role as President of the United States in Lincoln, opening today.

Here are a few of his other famous method acting techniques:

  • In Gangs of New York (2002, dir. Martin Scorsese), Day-Lewis took butchering lessons from a local butcher so that he would know how to correctly sharpen the knives he worked with on screen.
  • For his role in My Left Foot (1989, dir. Jim Sheridan), he would refuse to get out of the set’s wheelchair even after filming ended so that he could fully experience life from a debilitating injury. His slumped posture resulted in two broken ribs by the end of filming.
  • To prepare for The Last of the Mohicans (1992, dir. Michael Mann), Day-Lewis actually lived in the wild for 6 months, surviving on nothing but the barest necessities.

While you might conclude he’s slightly crazy for going to such pains to play a character, you have to admit that his method works. Day-Lewis is considered one of the best actors of his time because he can convince anyone that it’s not him under the clothes and makeup — he makes his characters come alive.


Daniel Day-Lewis's Acting Roles

Can you believe this is the same guy? With intense research and physical experience,
Daniel Day-Lewis can convince us of ANYTHING.


Becoming a Method Writer

For the most part, Internet users aren’t dumb. Even though authenticity on the Internet is hard to come by, thanks to endless publishing capabilities, website visitors can still tell when something is obviously incorrect or too vague to give any real information. That’s why content writers need to know what they’re writing about. As in the case of acting (where actors do not become their roles, but play them so that they seem like they are), writers should at least seem like they know what they’re writing about.

Taking Daniel Day-Lewis’s method acting as an example, here are 5 ways content creators can become “method writers”:


Actors don’t just wake up knowing everything about their part — they do extensive research (sometimes for years). If you’re not already an expert on the subject you’re writing about, you’ll need to become one; otherwise, you’re just spouting nonsense.


While sources like Wikipedia and eHow.com may be easy to find and read, they don’t always provide the most reliable information. Make sure you’re learning from a credible and respectable source. Sites that end in .edu, .gov, and .org are generally the best when it comes to credible information.


Day-Lewis grew his own beard for Lincoln, because he considers makeup too inauthentic. Take this to heart when you write—make your content naturally sound like it came from an expert in the industry. (If you’re not sure how to accomplish this, revisit step 1.)


There’s nothing wrong with going out there and experiencing the subject you’re writing about. For example, if your page is about unclogging a drain, go try your hand at unclogging a drain. If nothing else, you’ll at least have a new life skill.


Daniel Day-Lewis would never copy someone else’s method, and neither should you. Create your own unique content. (If the DDL reference doesn’t do provide the inspiration you need, look to a performer or character who does. Chuck Norris, Captain Kirk, or Batman can be used as stand-ins, depending on your taste.)

The Takeaway

We go see Daniel Day-Lewis’s movies because he’s a good actor who makes us believe he’s really the character he portrays on screen. People should want to visit your sites (or the sites you’re writing for your client) because you’re a good writer who convinces them you’re writing as an authority on your subject.

Becoming a method writer doesn’t happen overnight — it takes hard work, dedication, and a love for the craft. But it also makes content development more fun and engaging, both for you and your website visitors.

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