"I really tried to think of every excuse I could not to do it because I thought he needed somebody else. I think I gave him a few names, actually," Day-Lewis laughed. "Rob managed to convince me it would be OK . . . I took it on blind trust, but had severe doubts about it. I was a choir boy in a local church when I was a school boy, but, other than that, I hadn't done any singing to speak of."
Day-Lewis said his uneasiness grew when he saw his co-star, pop singer Fergie, rehearsing her big dance scene, "Be Italian."
"The first musical number I remember listening to was 'Be Italian' and it was a fairly early stage of rehearsals and I remember thinking, 'We might as well go home now.' Because it was so magnificent and we still had six weeks left of rehearsal," he said.
The 52-year-old actor is the London-born son of British actress Jill Balcon and Britain's Irish-born Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis. Married to filmmaker Rebecca Miller, daughter of the late playwright Arthur Miller, Day-Lewis has dual citizenship in England and Ireland, and is the father of three sons.
Known in the film industry for his celebrated collaborations with directors Martin Scorsese and Jim Sheridan, Day-Lewis is famous for immersing himself in his work and consequently taking roles only every couple of years so he can properly prepare for, then disengage from the complex characters he plays. He has won Oscars for his roles in "My Left Foot" and "There Will Be Blood," but also earned accolades for his work in "Gangs of New York," "The Boxer," "The Crucible," "The Age of Innocence," "In the Name of the Father," "The Last of the Mohicans," "A Room with a View," "My Beautiful Laundrette" and "The Unbearable Lightness of Being."
In Marshall's big-screen adaptation of the stage show, "Nine," Day-Lewis plays a married, Italian, 1960s-era filmmaker in the midst of personal and creative crises as he prepares to start shooting his latest movie and has no idea what it will be about. Marion Cotillard, Sophia Loren, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Penelope Cruz, Fergie and Nicole Kidman play the various women in his life.
"I didn't really ask myself initially why I was drawn so much to it," Day-Lewis explained. "I thought Tony Minghella's script was so beautiful, but I could have appreciated that from the outside without necessarily being drawn into the world he was describing. But, I suppose, that anyone that does any kind of creative work at some time in their life -- it tends to happen probably as you tend to grow into middle age -- you come to a time where you really question more and more frequently whether you have anything else to offer.
"At its very worse, you feel utterly bereft of whatever creative force it takes to do that work and so, I suppose, I was interested in that dilemma for a man who is about to shoot a film in five days. He is living in a wasteland of his own making."
Asked how he felt about doing the musical numbers once he committed to the project, Day-Lewis offered a much less flowery reply.
"[I was] nervous as hell like everyone else," he admitted.
"Nine" is in theaters now.