By Karolina Tagaris
ATHENS (Reuters) - Three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis says he has come to accept his decision to quit acting even if he doesn't quite understand it himself.
"If I knew the answer I would probably avoid trying to answer it anyway, but as it happens I can't answer the question," Day-Lewis told reporters in Athens ahead of the screening of his final film "Phantom Thread."
Day-Lewis, 60, the only man to have won three lead actor Oscars, shocked the film world in June by announcing, without explanation, that he was retiring as an actor.
His decision came after he finished filming Phantom Thread, a dark romance set in 1950s postwar London which took Director Paul Thomas Anderson two years to research and write.
"I don't fully understand it but it came to me with a sense of conviction and so I choose to move forward in acceptance of that rather than struggling with it," he said.
The British actor, whose career has won him best actor Oscars for roles as a paraplegic Irish writer in "My Left Foot" (1989), a greedy early 20th century oil baron in "There Will Be Blood" (2007), and U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in "Lincoln" (2013), described acting as a sanctuary that "in a way, saved me from myself when I was a kid."
"But I just feel it's time to explore the world in a different way now," he said.
In Phantom Thread, which if he stays true to his word will be his swan song, Day-Lewis plays a self-centered fashion designer whose world is turned upside down when his muse falls in love with him. He studied with designers for months to immerse himself into the character.
"I'm only learning by speaking to people that apparently I've been playing an absolute prick in this film and I'm really sorry to hear that, because, who thinks of themselves in that way?"
Phantom Thread has been nominated for six Oscars, including best picture, best actor and best director.
Competing against Day-Lewis will be Gary Oldman, who has also been nominated for best actor for portraying Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour". The role earned Oldman the award for best actor at the Golden Globes.
Does thinking about winning take up much of Day-Lewis' time? "Take a guess," he quipped.
"I'm perfectly happy to do the rounds and applaud Gary at every event I go to," he said. "Gary has done very fine work for many years and he's been recognized for it now so I'm delighted for it. I don't have to worry about it now just sit back and relax."
(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)