Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis Biography.com

Film Actor, Actor, Theater Actor(1957–)
Academy Award-winning English actor Daniel Day-Lewis is known for going to extreme lengths to prepare for a role. He has starred in several films, including Sunday, Bloody Sunday; My Beautiful Laundrette; My Left Foot; and Lincoln.


Daniel Day-Lewis was born on April 29, 1957, in London, England. He studied acting at the Bristol Old Vic and made his film debut in Sunday, Bloody Sunday. He was acclaimed for his role in My Beautiful Laundrette, and won an Oscar for My Left Foot. Day-Lewis married Rebecca Miller in 1996, and they have two sons. He also has a third child from a previous relationship.


Early Life and Career

Daniel Day-Lewis was born on April 29, 1957, into a well-to-do and creative family in London, England. His father, Cecil Day-Lewis, was a writer, enjoyed the honor of being England's poet laureate for the last four years of his life. His mother, Jill Balcon, was an actress.

Day-Lewis was such a poorly behaved student as his South London public school that his parents sent him to a private school in Kent, called Sevenoaks, but Day-Lewis did not fare much better there. Despite his lack of success in school, Day-Lewis had plenty of other talents. He shared the Balcon family inclination to act, but he was initially more drawn to working-class pursuits than to the stage. Enamored with woodworking and craftsmanship as a teenager, he focused for a time on these pursuits rather than on acting. Eventually, the future Oscar winner allowed chance to play a role in his future, and he applied to only one theater program. When he was accepted to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Day-Lewis threw himself fully into the craft of drama.

After his years at the Bristol Old Vic and several forays onto the stage, Day-Lewis made it to the silver screen with a small part in Gandhi (1982). He continued to appear in films and plays for several years, during which time he developed his much noted and intense acting style. Applying the same ethos to drama as he did to woodworking, Day-Lewis became a method actor who devotes himself physically, psychologically, and emotionally to getting in character for each of his roles. This creative process ultimately served Day-Lewis well in Hollywood. Day-Lewis explained his preparations for roles this way: "I don't rehearse at all in film if I can help it. In talking a character through, you define it. And if you define it, you kill it dead."

Critically Acclaimed Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis shifted between theater and film for most of the early 1980s, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company and appearing alongside stars Anthony Hopkins and Sir Laurence Olivier in the 1984 film The Bounty. In 1986, Day-Lewis's career started to gather steam with his acclaimed role in A Room with a View (1986). His first leading role came shortly after, in 1987, when he starred opposite Juliette Binoche in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. To prepare for the role, Day-Lewis learned Czech, and he subsequently stayed in character for the entire eight-month shoot.

For an even more extreme foray into a character's soul, Day-Lewis took on the role of Christy Brown in My Left Foot (1989). The actor learned about his paralyzed character by taking up residence in a wheelchair, even off-camera, requiring the crew to move him around. Day-Lewis took his role so seriously that he actually injured two ribs due to hunching over in the wheelchair. His hard work paid off when he took home an Oscar and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Best Actor Award, among a slew of other accolades.

Following this success, Day-Lewis took a break from Hollywood and returned to the stage for several years. Due to exhaustion and a scare related to seeing the specter of his father while playing Hamlet onstage, Day-Lewis has not returned to the theater since 1989.

Hollywood took Daniel Day-Lewis back with open arms, and in 1992 he returned to the silver screen with a starring role in Last of the Mohicans. His second Academy Award nomination was for his performance in the popular In the Name of the Father (1993). Day-Lewis's next two movies were commercially successful period pieces, The Age of Innocence (1993) and The Crucible (1996). It was on the set of The Crucible that Day-Lewis met Rebecca Miller, the daughter of writer Arthur Miller. The two began a romance that would result in their marriage on November 13, 1996. The couple has two children, Ronan Cal Day-Lewis and Cashel Blake Day-Lewis. The actor has one older son, Gabriel Cane Adjani, from a previous relationship with Isabelle Adjani.

After shooting the film The Boxer in 1997, Day-Lewis unexpectedly moved to Italy to become an apprentice to a shoemaker, effectively cutting himself off from the rest of the world. Day-Lewis has been reluctant to talk about his time out of the public eye, saying, "it was a period of my life that I had a right to without any intervention of that kind." In 2002, though, he was back in front of the camera for a much-lauded performance as Bill the Butcher in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York. Day-Lewis rounded up another batch of awards nominations for his role as the knife-wielding gangster and won another BAFTA for best actor.

Recent Projects

Day-Lewis gave another stunning performance in the 2007 film There Will Be Blood. An extended period of time was needed to raise funds for the film, which gave the actor two whole years in which to prepare for a role and a time period that he knew nothing about. "I like to learn about things," Day-Lewis said. "It was just a great time trying to conceive of the impossibility of that thing. I didn't know anything about mining at the turn of the century in America. My boarding school in Kent didn't exactly teach that."

Day-Lewis landed a starring role in the 2009 film Nine, by director Rob Marshall. Once again, Day-Lewis's performance was met with critical acclaim and award nominations. The actor is known for taking long hiatuses between films, breaking the mold of a leading man who churns out a hit every year. Critics and fans alike may want to see more of Day-Lewis, but the BAFTA darling clearly knows how to cultivate his genius and deliver epic performances. Researching his roles, taking time for his family, and striking out for new adventures seems to be part and parcel of the actor's recipe for success. On taking the acting path less traveled, Day-Lewis once said, "I couldn't do this work at all unless I did it in my own rhythm. It became a choice between stopping and taking the time I needed."

In 2012, Day-Lewis took on another challenging part, playing Abraham Lincoln, one of America's most beloved presidents. He starred in the Steven Spielberg-directed biopic Lincoln, which was based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The cast also included Sally Field as his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as his son Robert. His convincing portayal of Lincoln earned him an Academy Award for best actor in February 2013.

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