Daniel Day-Lewis Biography

Daniel Day-Lewis Biography on Monsters and Critics


"Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis" (born 29 April, 1957) is an Academy-Award winning and Golden Globe-award nominated actor. Born in London, England, he became an Irish citizen in 1993.

After studying at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Daniel Day-Lewis performed in numerous plays and films that gained him an Academy Award, two BAFTA awards, and four Golden Globe nominations. In the midst of his career, he has become known as one of the most selective actors in the film industry, starring in only four movies in the last ten years. He has also been acknowledged for his constant devotion to his roles and copious amounts of research he performs. Often he will remain in character and speak in the accents he has used on screen throughout the entire shooting schedule.

Early life

Day-Lewis is the son of the late British Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis. His mother, who comes from a Jewish family, is actress Jill Balcon, daughter of Sir Michael Balcon, former head of Ealing Studios. Two years after his birth in London, the Day-Lewis family moved to Croom's Hill, Greenwich where Daniel grew up along with his older sister, Tamasin Day-Lewis, who later become a renowned documentary filmmaker and television chef. Cecil Day-Lewis was already 53 years old at the time of his son's birth, and seemed to take little interest in his children. Following frequent health problems, he died when Daniel was 15. Daniel felt unsettled about his lack of emotion, and regretted not having been closer to his father.

Living in Greenwich, Day-Lewis naturally found himself among some tough South London kids and being Jewish and 'posh', he was often bullied. Very quickly, therefore, he mastered the local accent and mannerisms — which he believes to have been the first convincing performances he gave. Later in life, he was known to speak of himself as very much a disorderly character in his younger years, often in trouble for shoplifting and other petty crimes.

In 1968, Day-Lewis' parents, finding him to be 'too wild', sent him to Sevenoaks school in Kent, as a boarder. Though he detested the school, he was introduced to his two most prominent interests, woodworking and acting. He made his debut in "Cry, The Beloved Country" wearing extensive makeup for his role as a Black boy. While his disdain for the school grew, he made his film debut at the age of 14 in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" in which he played a vandal in an uncredited role. He described the experience as 'heaven', for getting paid £2 to vandalize expensive cars parked outside his local church. After two years at Sevenoaks, Daniel was transferred to the Bedales School in Petersfield.

Leaving Bedales in 1975, his unruly attitude had faded and he now had to make a career choice. Although he had excelled onstage at the National Youth Theatre, he decided to become a cabinet-maker, applying for a five-year apprenticeship.However, because of a lack of experience, he was not accepted. He then applied (and was accepted) at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which he attended for three years, eventually performing at the Bristol Old Vic itself. (At one point he played understudy to Pete Postlethwaite, whom he would later play opposite in "In the Name of the Father", and with whom he shares a brief scene in "Last of the Mohicans" when he is the arresting officer when Hawkeye is imprisoned for sedition).



Eleven years after his film debut, Day-Lewis continued his film career with a small part in "Gandhi" (1982) as Colin, a street thug who bullies the title character, only to be immediately chastised by his high-strung mother. In 1984, he had a supporting role as the conflicted, but ultimately loyal first mate in "The Bounty", after which he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, playing Romeo in "Romeo and Juliet". (He later grew to detest the character, however, and often described him as a 'wanker').

The actor was next featured on stage as 'The Count' in the stage-play of "Dracula" where he appeared with his hair dyed blond in a throwback to "Nosferatu". He later let his hair grow out to give a frosted 'punk look' when he played half of a gay bi-racial couple in "My Beautiful Laundrette". Day-Lewis gained further public notice when the film was released simultaneously with a completely different character in "A Room with a View" (1986), in which he played the effete upper-class fiancé of the main character (played by Helena Bonham Carter).

In 1987, Day-Lewis assumed leading man status by starring in Philip Kaufman's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", co-starring Lena Olin and Juliette Binoche, as a Czech doctor whose hyperactive and purely physical sex life is thrown into disarray when he allows himself to become emotionally involved with a woman. During the eight-month shoot he learned Czech and first began to refuse to break character on or off the set for the entire shooting schedule.

Day-Lewis put his personal version of 'method acting' into full use in 1989 with his performance as Christy Brown in Jim Sheridan's "My Left Foot" which won him numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor. During filming, his eccentricities came to the fore, due to his refusal to break character.

Playing a severely paralyzed character onscreen, offscreen Day-Lewis had to be wheeled around the set in his wheelchair, and crew members would curse at having to lift him over camera and lighting wires, all so that he might gain insight into all aspects of Christy Brown's life, including the embarrassments. He also broke two ribs during filming from assuming a hunched-over position in his wheelchair for so many weeks.

Daniel Day-Lewis returned to the stage to work with Richard Eyre, as "Hamlet" at the National Theatre, but collapsed in the middle of a scene where the ghost of Hamlet's father first appears to his son. He began sobbing uncontrollably and refused to go back on stage; his understudy (a then unknown Jeremy Northam) finished what little was left of the production's run. One rumour following the incident was that Day-Lewis had seen the ghost of his own father, although the incident was officially attributed to exhaustion. He confirmed on the top British celebrity chat show 'Parkinson' on ITV that this rumour was true. He has not appeared on stage since.


In 1992, three years after his Oscar win, "The Last of the Mohicans" was released. Day-Lewis' character research for this film was well-publicized; he reportedly underwent rigorous weight training and learned to live off the land and forest where his character lived, camping, hunting and fishing. He even carried a Kentucky rifle at all times during filming in order to remain in character and learned how to skin animals.

While the film carried him to new heights of stardom, Day-Lewis preferred less 'Hollywood' films such as "The Age of Innocence" co-starring Michelle Pfeiffer and directed by Martin Scorsese. He ultimately returned to work with Jim Sheridan on "In the Name of the Father", in which he played Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four who were wrongfully convicted of a bombing carried out by the Provisional IRA. He lost a substantial amount of weight for the part, kept his Northern Irish accent on and off the set for the entire shooting schedule, and spent stretches of time in a prison cell. He also insisted that crew members throw cold water and verbal abuse at him. The film earned him his second Academy Award nomination, his third BAFTA nomination, and his second Golden Globe nomination.

In 1996, Day-Lewis starred in a film version of "The Crucible" based on the play by Arthur Miller and co-starring Winona Ryder. He followed that with Jim Sheridan's "The Boxer" as a former boxer and IRA member recently released from prison. His preparation included training for six months with former boxing world champion Barry McGuigan.

Following "The Boxer", Daniel Day-Lewis took a leave of absence from acting by putting himself into 'semi-retirement' and returning to his old passion of woodworking. He moved to Florence, Italy where he became intrigued by the craft of shoemaking, eventually apprenticing as a shoemaker for a time while his exact whereabouts and actions were not made publicly known. While, as a consequence, litte of these events are known, it has been rumoured that Day-Lewis, in return for board and food, taught the master cobbler under whose tutelage he toiled the secrets of the acting craft. It has further been suggested that, following Day-Lewis' departure, the shoemaker took up a career as a travelling Commedia dell'Arte performer - a profession which has seen his earning potential skyrocket. Day-Lewis has refused to comment on the subject, simply stating that 'Laurencino the shoemaker was a man of many gifts'.


After a three-year absence from filming, Day-Lewis returned to acting by Martin Scorsese (with whom he had worked on "The Age of Innocence") and Harvey Weinstein to play (opposite Leonardo DiCaprio) the villain gangleader, 'Bill the Butcher' (who, ironically, has a pure hatred for Ireland and the Irish people), in "Gangs of New York". He began his lengthy, self-disciplined process by taking lessons as an apprentice butcher. Day-Lewis' dedication to the role even threatened his life at one point during filming when he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He refused to wear a warmer coat or to take treatment because it was not in keeping with the period. However, he was eventually persuaded to seek medical treatment. Also, between takes, he would often listen to Eminem tunes, to help get him into the self-righteous frame of mind of the character.

His performance in "Gangs of New York" earned him his third Academy Award nomination and won him the BAFTA Award for Best Actor. At the time, he swore that this film would be his last.

This was not to be the case, however, when Day-Lewis' own wife, director Rebecca Miller, offered him the lead role in her film "The Ballad of Jack and Rose", in which he played a dying man with regrets over how his life had evolved and over how he had raised his teenaged daughter. During filming he arranged to live separately from his wife in order to achieve the 'isolation' needed to focus on his own character's reality. The film received mixed reviews, while Day-Lewis received almost universal praise for his performance.

In 2006, it was reported in "Variety" that Paul Thomas Anderson's next film would be an adaptation of the controversial novel "Oil!", renamed "There Will Be Blood" and starring Day-Lewis.

Personal life

Day-Lewis rarely talks publicly about his personal life, He had relationship with French actress Isabelle Adjani. The relationship lasted six years and eventually ended when Adjani notified Day-Lewis, reportedly by fax, that she was pregnant. Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis was born in 1995 in New York, months after the relationship between the two actors had ended.

In 1996, while working on the film version of the stage-play "The Crucible", he visited the home of playwright Arthur Miller where he was introduced to the writer's daughter, Rebecca Miller. They fell in love and were married two weeks before the film's release. The couple have two sons, Ronan (born June 14, 1998), and Cashel (born May 2002) and divide their time between their homes in the U.S. and Ireland.

External links

(Extensive Biography at Tiscali UK)

(DD-L: A Celebration of Daniel Day-Lewis (Fansite))


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article about Daniel Day-Lewis.