Three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis’s announcement that he’s quitting acting for good at age 60 would be less convincing if he wasn’t Daniel Day-Lewis. Unlike the sort of attention-addicted performer who’s partial to yelling “I’m leaving now!” and making loud foot-clomping noises until everybody’s dutiful Saddy McSadface expression (or the next big paycheck) changes his or her mind, he’s such a showbiz-phobic, stubborn oddball that he probably means it.

Fat chance anyone will talk him out of ithe decision: not Martin Scorsese, not Steven Spielberg. Even directors that vaunted practically had to pry D D-L loose from his fireplace in Ireland to get him to star in, respectively, 2002’s Gangs of New York and 2012’s Lincoln. In the decade in between, he’d consented to act in exactly three movies, so we know the man isn’t easily budged.

Even after he’d nabbed his third Best Actor statuette—for Lincoln, natch—we at Playboy could never bring ourselves to think him as a movie star. That was mainly because we didn’t want to offend him by association with such an obviously trashy concept. His notorious choosiness about which roles were worth his while, along with his allergy to even the most innocent versions of the fame game, never seemed like celebrity showmanship in what has always been its cleverest disguise. Unlike, say, Sean Penn, who never stops signaling to the credulous that acting is beneath him, what Day-Lewis projects is the recalcitrance of someone who thinks acting is too sacramental a vocation to waste on dreck.

There’s no question that conceiving his job in such intense terms took a lot out of him. Fascinatingly, he never acted onstage again after losing it during a 1989 performance of Hamlet; he couldn’t handle confronting the ghost of Hamlet’s father. But that was almost certainly the theater’s loss, especially considering how at home he’d have been with Eugene O’Neill’s gloom. He’s actually the right age now to tackle James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night—a play that is, among other things, all about actors, acting and the anguish of misused talent. But you couldn’t pay us enough to be the EMT, or maybe the shrink, hovering anxiously in the wings until Day-Lewis got through it each night.

It might not have killed him to occasionally turn up in a piece of candid cheese like ‘Mamma Mia!’

Is there a downside to treating acting as such a momentous calling? We sometimes think so. Aiming for capital-G Greatness every time can make even an actor this brilliant less raffishly enjoyable than he might have been. Early on, in My Beautiful Launderette, his breakthrough part, Day-Lewis had a rare, impudent spontenaeity; you enjoyed him partly because he looked like he was enjoying himself. What you remembered best about his performance as the artist afflicted with celebral palsy in My Left Foot (which won him his first Oscar) wasn’t the character’s physical handicaps but his appetite for life. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being and, especially, Michael Mann’s The Last of The Mohicans—one of the great under-recognized Hollywood classics of the past 25 years—he had the kind of romantic dash that manages to make braininess sexy.

Somewhere in there, though, his approach to his craft got so freighted with gravitas that only movies constructed like cathedrals felt like apt settings for his talent. Because he was usually astounding in them, it’s difficult to see this as a limitation. But what if it was? He was often alarmingly funny as Bill The Butcher in Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood’s Daniel Plainview. For that matter, one of his best scenes in Lincoln was Honest Abe entertaining the folks by telling an outhouse joke. But doing comedy as such apparently struck him as too shallow to suit his gifts, and that’s too bad.

If playing Newland Archer in Scorsese’s wax-museum version of The Age of Innocence was one of his rare ineffectual performances, that was partly because projecting sexuality, desire and romantic appeal clearly no longer interested him, and, once again, too bad. Eventually, he became such an obsessive, outsized acting titan that he could only be cast as obsessive, outsized titans in prestige movies designed as showcases for his genius—and let’s agree that, in his case, genius is what it was.

To be fair, Day-Lewis’s main attempt to break the mold in the 2009 musical Nine is one latter-day vehicle of his we’ve never seen, and not many other people did either. All the same, it might not have killed him to occasionally turn up in a piece of candid cheese like Mamma Mia! or a Farrelly Brothers movie. After all, Meryl Streep did both.

Then again, genius is as genius does. Wishing this one’s priorities had been more eclectic and less solemn is obviously pretty pointless, not to mention a minority view. If the brazen, exciting, young Day-Lewis of the 1980s and early 1990s almost seems like a different actor than the grand, grim figures in Gangs of New York, There Will Be Blood and Lincoln—three American epics that his presence welds into a sort of unofficial trilogy—that only adds to his impressiveness. Assuming his retirement is for real, we can be sure nobody’s likely to fill those shoes anytime soon.

He does have one more movie coming out: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, due this Christmas, and it certainly sounds like the opposite of There Will Be Blood, Part Deux. Supposedly, Day-Lewis is playing a fashion designer for the British royal family in 1950s London, and who the hell can imagine what that will be like? But we’re betting that, one way or another, he’ll astonish audiences one last time. Enjoy your country life in Ireland, D D-L.