Daniel Day-Lewis breaks from retirement to fete Martin Scorsese at National Board of Review Awards

Martin Scorsese
Best film and best director honoree for “Killers of the Flower Moon” Martin Scorsese attends the National Board of Review awards gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Daniel Day-Lewis took a break from retirement to present Martin Scorsese the award for best director at the National Board of Review Awards in midtown Manhattan on Thursday night.

Scorsese’s Osage epic, “ Killers of the Flower Moon,” was the top honoree at the 95th NBR Awards. In awards announced earlier but handed out Thursday, “Killers of the Flower Moon” was the group’s pick for best film, along with best director for Scorsese and best actress for Lily Gladstone.

The night’s biggest surprise guest was Day-Lewis, who quit acting after Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 film “Phantom Thread” and has since largely avoided public life. Day-Lewis sat next to Scorsese throughout the gala at Cipriani’s 42nd Street before presenting the directing award.

“I was a teenager when I discovered Martin’s work,” Day-Lewis said. “With a light of his own making he illuminated unknown worlds that pulsed with a dangerous, irresistible energy — worlds that were mysterious to me and utterly enthralling. He illuminated the vast beautiful landscape of what is possible in film and he clarified for me what it is that one must ask of one self to work in faith.”

Day-Lewis, who starred in Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” (2002) and “The Age of Innocence” (1993), called working with the director “one of the greatest joys and unexpected privileges of my life.”

When Scorsese took the stage and accepted the award, he returned the compliment, calling working with Day-Lewis “one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

“Maybe there’s time for one more,” added Scorsese with a grin as the crowd gasped at the possibility. Day-Lewis, standing to the side of the stage, smiled and held out his hands.

Much of the appeal of the NBRs is the pairing of presenters and honorees. Laura Linney introduced best supporting actor Mark Ruffalo, a reunion of the “You Can Count on Me” stars. Patti Smith presented Lily Gladstone with the best-actress award.

“Of course this is not a dream to be sitting in between Patti Smith and Daniel Day Lewis,” joked a staggered Gladstone.

The night’s most moving moment came earlier in the evening when Michael J. Fox took the stage with Davis Guggenheim, the director of the documentary winner “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie.” The crowd gave Fox a rousing standing ovation before the actor reflected on how Parkinson’s disease has changed his life for the better.

“Parkinson’s has been a gift. It’s been a gift that keeps on taking,” Fox said. “It’s been a gift because it’s given me an audience to talk about what’s possible.”

Fox worked in jokes throughout his speech but returned to that theme, noting Parkinson’s has been more meaningful to him than his success in entertainment.

“It just opened my eyes in a way I didn’t expect,” Fox said.

Bradley Cooper, recipient of the Icon Award for “Maestro,” also paid tribute to Fox as he recalled watching “Secret of My Success” and “Family Ties” while growing up.

“I felt like he was my friend,” Cooper said.

While there was little suspense to the ceremony, given that the awards had been announced earlier, a clue was dropped to one of awards season’s biggest mysteries.

French director Justine Triet, whose “Anatomy of a Fall” was honored for best international film, provided a hint for moviegoers debating whether the film’s protagonist, played by Sandra Hüller, was guilty of the murder she is tried for in the film.

“I have one advice: Watch the dog,” Triet said. “He’s an animal. He has instincts. Maybe he knows.”