Jodie Foster could hardly hold back her feelings when announcing the Best Actor winner at the 1990 Oscars ceremony. Watch above as she swoons in saying the name of Daniel Day-Lewis for “My Left Foot,” his first ever victory at the Academy Awards.
In the 1980s, Day-Lewis was a young actor known mostly for British stage work and television, but he was building a reputation as an immersive method actor. He had received good notices for his performances in “A Room with a View,” as the wealthy suitor of Helena Bonham Carter, and as a romantic Czech doctor in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”
In 1988 he was offered a screenplay based on the memoirs of Christy Brown, an Irish poet and painter born with cerebral palsy. When he read the opening scene where Christy puts on a record using only his left foot, Day-Lewis knew he had to play the part. He insisted on staying in a wheelchair throughout filming and nearly broke his rib holding Christy’s slouched position.
The film was “My Left Foot,” for which Daniel Day-Lewis earned his first Oscar nomination and win for Best Actor. Over his career, he has become the record-holder for Best Actor wins with three (also including “There Will Be Blood” and “Lincoln”). He contends again at the upcoming March 4 ceremony for “Phantom Thread.”
In addition to his leading category, the movie was also nominated for:
Best Picture – Producer, Noel Pearson (lost to “Driving Miss Daisy”)
Best Director – Jim Sheridan (lost to Oliver Stone, “Born on the Fourth of July”)
Best Adapted Screenplay – Jim Sheridan and Shane Connaughton (lost to Alfred Uhry, “Driving Miss Daisy”)
Best Supporting Actress – Brenda Fricker (won for her role as the loving mother)
Though his performance were unanimously praised, he still was not the year’s clear frontrunner and faced solid competition from his fellow nominees:
Kenneth Branagh, “Henry V” — Branagh’s epic adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy about the young British King who seeks revenge against the king of France, also received nominations for Branagh’s direction.
Tom Cruise, “Born on the Fourth of July” — His performance as paralyzed Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic earned Cruise the Golden Globe, beating out Day Lewis.
Morgan Freeman, “Driving Miss Daisy” — His performance as the chauffeur of a wealthy Jewish woman in the segregated South, earned Freeman the Golden Globe in the comedy category.
Robin Williams, “Dead Poets Society” — After his nomination, and loss for “Good Morning Vietnam” two years earlier, many thought Williams was a strong contender as a rogue poetry teacher at an Ivy league college.
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