screen wriTer

Don­ald Clarke on Daniel Day-Lewis’s catch­phrase

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

Weeks be­fore he picked up an Os­car nom­i­na­tion or won a Golden Globe, Daniel Day-Lewis had al­ready re­ceived the great­est pos­si­ble trib­ute for his per­for­mance in the mag­nif­i­cent There Will Be Blood. Type the phrase “i drink your milk­shake” into Google and, if you have the ex­pres­sion in quotes, you will be pre­sented with some 80,000 re­sults.

Day-Lewis, who plays an in­creas­ingly de­ranged oil prospec­tor in the flick, fi­nally has his own catch­phrase. Mem­bers of the pub­lic of­ten ask Michael Caine to con­firm that he only wanted “the bloody doors” blown off. Al Pa­cino is, I would guess, fre­quently asked to in­tro­duce pun­ters to “his lit­tle friend”. Now, ev­ery time Daniel passes a fast food restau­rant, he will have to en­dure pun­ters wav­ing flavoured dairy bev­er­ages in his di­rec­tion.

Given that the ex­pres­sion ap­pears in the last few min­utes of the film, we are un­able to con­sider the con­text in any de­tail. Never mind. It is Day Lewis’s de­liv­ery that mat­ters. The first three words are de­liv­ered in a strong, as­sertive – though still dis­ci­plined – growl that fails to pre­pare us for the bel­low that con­veys “milk­shake!” Then the ac­tor makes a deep slurp­ing noise and, now hol­ler­ing like a man who’s just sat on a sharp­ened chilli pep­per, closes the deal with “I DRINK IT UP!”

The phrase ap­pears in par­o­dies, tributes and blogs. One in­dus­tri­ous fan has mashed the line into Kelis’s Milk­shake (a naughty song about some­thing other than fast food), laid the mix over footage from There Will Be Blood and posted the im­pres­sive re­sult on YouTube. Blood nuts can now dis­cuss their feel­ings about Paul Thomas An­der­son’s film on a site called – you’re way ahead of me – idrinky­our­milk And so forth.

What gives a phrase such res­o­nance? Well, the lines that achieve time­less­ness tend to fall into two cat­e­gories: those that jump off the page as per­fectly formed apho­risms, and those that gain dis­tinc­tion through the ac­tor’s de­liv­ery. The Venn di­a­gram that con­tains th­ese two sets does, of course, fea­ture a sig­nif­i­cant de­gree of over­lap.

When, in Gone With the Wind, Rhett But­ler snaps “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” it per­fectly sums up the char­ac­ter’s frus­tra­tion at Scar­lett O’Hara’s in­fu­ri­at­ing wil­ful­ness. But the line would never have be­come so fa­mous with­out Clark Gable adding that ec­cen­tric stress to the word “give” (al­legedly to dis­tract from the mild pro­fan­ity at the end of the sen­tence).

By way of con­trast, much as we love Lauren Ba­call, it would take a real chump to kill the sul­try ac­tor’s fa­mous quip from To Have and Have Not. “You know how to whis­tle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips to­gether and blow.” Even Jes­sica Alba might have made that fine line sing.

“I drink your milk­shake” be­longs ex­clu­sively to the other set. The phrase does de­liver an el­e­ment of plot, but it has be­come fa­mous be­cause, in just four short blasts, it of­fers a sum­ma­tion of Daniel Day-Lewis’s de­li­ciously weird, darkly funny, end­lessly un­pre­dictable per­for­mance.

He had bet­ter grow to like it. The words might tail him to the grave. dclarke@ir­

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