By Carlos Roberto

“Everybody has to know for themselves what they’re capable of.”
— Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis making an entrance at The Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2013.

Daniel Day-Lewis making an entrance at The Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2013.

At times, celebrity culture feels like the many religions in the world. Those on screen and stage are gods and goddesses, and their talented force of nature drives people to worship them. We all have celebrities we hold in high regard. And truth be told, I have mine.

I was first introduced to Daniel Day-Lewis ten years ago by my lover at the time. She was an actress who admired Lewis’ immeasurable talents. One evening she told me about the film The Last of the Mohicans. She knew this movie would affect me deeply because I adore American Literature and the film is based on the historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper (first published in 1826).

After hearing her describe the film, I headed to Hollywood Video. Back then we didn’t have Redbox, Nextflix, or iTunes. Instead we obtained movies the old school way — we rented DVDs.

That night I sat transfixed. I watched an incredible film featuring a god in my eyes. The next morning, I returned to my video store to begin my education in Daniel Day-Lewis. I witnessed his swift ascension in the actor ranks with My Beautiful Laundrette, A Room with a View, and My Left Foot — three versatile, outstanding performances that demonstrate his chameleon-like skills, which make him a master of his craft.

After devouring these three movies, I craved more. I watched In the Name of the Father, The Crucible (one of my personal favorites), The Boxer, and Gangs of New York. Needless to say, I was hooked and found myself kneeling at the alter of my newfound god. Over the years, I was first in line to see every new release from Lewis — The Ballad of Jack and Rose, There Will Be Blood, and Nine.

Then, late last year, Steven Spielberg’s Civil War saga Lincoln debuted. The film is the most honored film of the year, leading the Academy Awards with 12 nominations — and for good reason. Lincoln is an incredible achievement in film and Daniel Day shines within it. It’s been widely reported that Lewis was so obsessed with maintaining the mindset of Abraham Lincoln while making the film that he stayed in character throughout the two-month shoot. In fact, the Greenwich-London born son of actress Jill Balcon and poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis spent a full year researching the role and only spoke in the President’s Kentucky accent for much of that time.

Lewis’ painstaking preparation is apparent in every moment of the film. His performance is breathtaking, magnetic, and inspiring. If Daniel Day wins the Oscar for Best Actor on Feb. 24 — and he should — he will be the first person in Hollywood history to have been recognized as Best Actor three times.

While you may agree or disagree with me that Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest actor ever, I assure you he is the most unique person I have ever met. And I am not alone in this thinking. The Santa Barbara Film Festival named him “The Perfect Gentleman” because of his warm embrace of the community. Just take a look at these pictures I took of him at the festival. While most celebrities shun fans, Daniel Day embraces them on a regular basis.

In anticipation of Daniel Day-Lewis’ third Oscar, the SBIFF honored him with the prestigious Montecito Award on behalf of his exceptional performance in Lincoln and to celebrate his distinctive career. During a beautiful two-hour ceremony and Q&A session conducted by Scott Feinberg, we all celebrated Daniel Day-Lewis.

Also in attendance at the SBIFF were big names like Sally Field, Michael Mann (the director of The Last of the Mohicans), and Gus Van Sant (the director of Promised Land, another celebrated film of 2012). As the SBIFF continues, they are honoring Ben Affleck with The Modern Master Award, Amy Adams with the Cinema Vanguard Award, Jennifer Lawrence with the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award, and Quentin Tarantino with the American Riviera Award.

Yet more reasons to adore and embrace HOLLYWOOD.

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