Donald Clarke on Daniel Day-Lewis’s catchphrase
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 shake.com. 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. email@example.com