Childhood & Early Life
Daniel Day-Lewis was born in Kensington, London on April 29, 1957. His father, Cecil Day-Lewis (aka Nicholas Blake), was born in Ireland and was a ‘Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom’. Day-Lewis’ mother, Jill Balcon, was Cecil Day-Lewis’ second wife and was Jewish whose ancestors had migrated to England.
He has an older sister, Tamasin, who is a documentary filmmaker and television chef. Day-Lewis studied at Sevenoaks School in Kent which he disliked but it taught him three important interests: woodworking, acting and fishing.
Later, he was shifted to another independent school, Bedales, in Petersfiled, Hampshire. In 1975, he left Bedales and joined Bristol Old Vic School and attended it for three years. He also performed at the Bristol Old Vic and was an understudy to Pete Postlethwaite, with whom he later co-starred in a film.
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At the age of 14, Daniel Day-Lewis made his acting debut with the movie ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ where he played the role of a vandal. He believed the experience of working in a film was heavenly, and on top of that he also got paid to vandalise expensive cars.
In the 1980s, Day-Lewis started working in theatre and television including ‘Frost in May’ and ‘How Many Miles to Babylon?’ for the BBC where he played two different kind of roles.
Day-Lewis acted in theatre and disappeared from films till 1982. He landed his first adult role, a small part in the film ‘Gandhi’ in 1982. Even though it was a small part it proved crucial for his career.
The movies that truly portrayed his acting calibre for acting were ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ (1985) and ‘A Room with a View’ (1985) which opened in New York on the same day. Thus, it offered the audience as well the critics evidence of his spectacular acting.
In 1987, he grabbed leading role in ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ starring opposite Juliette Binoche where he played the role of a Czech surgeon whose hyperactive sex life gets disturbed because he falls for a woman.
Day-Lewis prepared hard for this role as he stayed in character for the entire eight-month shoot. During this time, he also learned Czech to connect more with his on-screen character. This was just the beginning of his method acting.
In 1989, he played the character of Christy Brown in Jim Sheridan’s ‘My Left Foot’ where his character was a writer and painter, who was born with cerebral palsy and could only control his left foot. Day-Lewis prepared for this role by frequently visiting several people with disabilities in Sandymount School Clinic in Dublin.
He stayed in the character for long and refused to break out of it. The crew members moved him in a wheel chair and he often asked them to spoon-feed him. This is just an example of his dedication towards his characters and films.
When the movie released it won him many awards, including his first Academy Award for Best Actor and BAFTA Award for Best Actor. His hard work paid off and his role was appreciated by audience and critics.
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In the same year, Day-Lewis returned to theatre and worked with Richard Eyre in ‘Hamlet’ at the National Theatre, London. But during a scene when Hamlet sees his father’s ghost, Day-Lewis collapsed and refused to go back on stage. It is believed that Day-Lewis saw his own father’s ghost during that scene.
He worked with Jim Sheridan in ‘In the Name of the Father’ for which he lost 30lbs and kept a Northern Irish accent on and off the sets. He also spent time in prison to prepare for the role and asked the crew members to throw cold water at him and cuss at him.
His method acting also worked this time as the film was appreciated by all and garnered huge praise. It helped him with second nomination for Academy Award, as well as a BAFTA and Golden Globe nomination.
After working in few films, Day-Lewis took a semi-retirement to return to his old passion of woodworking. Moving to Florence, Italy, he learned the craft of shoemaking. During this time, he had disappeared from show business and media’s eyes.
He returned to acting in ‘Gangs of New York’ in 2002 after a gap of five years. In this movie, he starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and played the role of a gang leader. The role of a villainous gang leader earned him critical acclaim and won him an award.
In 2007, he starred in ‘There Will Be Blood’ which won him many awards. This movie also won him Best Actor Oscar which helped him in joining Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson as the only male actors to win two Oscars in two non-consecutive decades.
He acted in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ which was based on a book on the former President of America. When the movie released one could see the striking resemblance between the former President of America and the British actor. The resemblance between them was so uncanny it was difficult to make out that it was actually Day-Lewis acting as Lincoln.
The film grossed over $275 million worldwide and won him with many awards. John Hartoch, Day-Lewis’ teacher at acting school, also appreciated his performance.
After working in the film industry for so long and winning countless awards and acclaim from all over the world, Day-Lewis has decided to retire. In 2017, Day-Lewis’ spokeswoman has announced that he would be retiring from acting soon.
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Daniel Day-Lewis has been one of the few actors in Hollywood to leave a mark through his remarkable acting. His role in ‘My Left Foot’ won him many accolades and awards. This was due to his method acting and immense dedication towards his role.
His next role that left an imprint in the minds of people was ‘The Gangs of New York’. In this movie, he played a villain as impeccably as he would play a hero. This film too won him tons of awards.
In 2012, a movie based on the life of Lincoln was released which broke many records. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
Awards & Achievements
Day-Lewis won his first Academy Award for Best Actor and BAFTA Award for Best Actor in 1990 for his role in ‘My Left Foot’.
In 2008, he received the Academy Award for Best Actor, BAFTA Award for Best Actor in Leading Role, Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a leading role for the film ‘There Will Be Blood’.
In 2013, Day-Lewis won the BAFTA Britannia Award for Excellence in Film. At the 70th, Golden Globe Awards, the British actor won his second Golden Globe for Best Actor, third Academy Award, and fourth BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for ‘Lincoln’.
Day-Lewis has also received honorary doctorate in letters from University in Bristol in 2010.
In 2013, Day-Lewis was chosen by the People magazine as the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.
In 2009, he turned down the role in ‘Terminator Salvation’.
Time’s magazine mentioned him in the list of 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2013.
Day-Lewis has both British as well as Irish citizenship.
Prince William formally knighted Day-Lewis in November 2014.