Day-Lewis in May 2013
Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis
29 April 1957
|Relatives||Cecil Day-Lewis (father)|
Jill Balcon (mother)
Tamasin Day-Lewis (sister)
Michael Balcon (grandfather)
Sir Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis (born 29 April 1957) is a retired English actor with dual British and Irish citizenship. One of the most respected actors of his generation, he has also been hailed as one of the greatest actors in cinematic history. His numerous awards include three Academy Awards for Best Actor, making him the only male actor to have three wins in that category and one of only three male actors to win three Oscars. He won four BAFTA Awards for Best Actor, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and two Golden Globe Awards. In June 2014, Day-Lewis received a knighthood for services to drama.
Born and raised in London, Day-Lewis excelled on stage at the National Youth Theatre before being accepted at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which he attended for three years. Despite his traditional training at the Bristol Old Vic, he is considered a method actor, known for his constant devotion to and research of his roles. Displaying a "mercurial intensity", he would often remain completely in character throughout the shooting schedules of his films, even to the point of adversely affecting his health. He is one of the most selective actors in the film industry, having starred in only six films since 1998, with as many as five years between roles. Protective of his private life, he rarely gives interviews, and makes very few public appearances.
Day-Lewis shifted between theatre and film for most of the early 1980s, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company and playing Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream, before appearing in the 1984 film The Bounty. He starred in My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), his first critically acclaimed role, and gained further public notice with A Room with a View (1985). He then assumed leading man status with The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) and The Last of the Mohicans (1992). His performance in My Left Foot (1989) saw him receive his first Academy Award and BAFTA for Best Actor. Following his performance in The Boxer (1997), Day-Lewis retired from acting for three years, taking up a new profession as an apprentice shoe-maker in Italy. He returned to acting in 2000 to film Gangs of New York (2002). He won Oscars and BAFTAs again for There Will Be Blood (2007) and Lincoln (2012). He was also nominated for the Academy Award for his work in In the Name of the Father (1993), Gangs of New York (2002), and Phantom Thread (2017). Day-Lewis announced his retirement in 2017, following the completion of Phantom Thread.
Day-Lewis was born in Kensington, London, the second child of poet Cecil Day-Lewis (1904–1972) and his second wife, actress Jill Balcon (1925–2009). His older sister, Tamasin Day-Lewis (born 1953), is a television chef and food critic. His father, who was born in the Irish town of Ballintubbert, County Laois, was of Protestant Anglo-Irish descent, lived in England from the age of two, and was appointed Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. Day-Lewis' mother was Jewish; her Jewish ancestors were immigrants to England in the late 19th century, from Latvia and Poland. Day-Lewis' maternal grandfather, Sir Michael Balcon, became the head of Ealing Studios, helping develop the new British film industry. The BAFTA for Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema is presented every year in honour of Balcon's memory.
Two years after Day-Lewis' birth, he moved with his family to Crooms Hill in Greenwich via Port Clarence Middlesbrough. He and his older sister did not see much of their older two half-brothers, who had been teenagers when Day-Lewis' father divorced their mother. Living in Greenwich (he attended Invicta and Sherington Primary Schools), Day-Lewis had to deal with tough South London children. At this school, he was bullied for being both Jewish and "posh". He mastered the local accent and mannerisms, and credits that as being his first convincing performance. Later in life, he has been known to speak of himself as a disorderly character in his younger years, often in trouble for shoplifting and other petty crimes.
In 1968, Day-Lewis' parents, finding his behaviour to be too wild, sent him as a boarder to the independent Sevenoaks School in Kent. At the school, he was introduced to his three most prominent interests: woodworking, acting, and fishing. However, his disdain for the school grew, and after two years at Sevenoaks, he was transferred to another independent school, Bedales in Petersfield, Hampshire. His sister was already a student there, and it had a more relaxed and creative ethos. 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 vandalise expensive cars parked outside his local church.
For a few weeks in 1972, the Day-Lewis family lived at Lemmons, the north London home of Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard. Day-Lewis' father had pancreatic cancer, and Howard invited the family to Lemmons as a place they could use to rest and recuperate. His father died there in May that year. By the time he left Bedales in 1975, Day-Lewis' unruly attitude had diminished and he needed to make a career choice. Although he had excelled on stage at the National Youth Theatre in London, he applied for a five-year apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker. He was rejected due to lack of experience. He was accepted at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which he attended for three years along with Miranda Richardson, eventually performing at the Bristol Old Vic itself. At one point he played understudy to Pete Postlethwaite, with whom he would later co-star in the film In the Name of the Father (1994).
John Hartoch, Day-Lewis' acting teacher at Bristol Old Vic, recalled:
There was something about him even then. He was quiet and polite, but he was clearly focused on his acting—he had a burning quality. He seemed to have something burning beneath the surface. There was a lot going on beneath that quiet appearance. There was one performance in particular, when the students put on a play called Class Enemy, when he really seemed to shine—and it became obvious to us, the staff, that we had someone rather special on our hands.
During the early 1980s, Day-Lewis worked in theatre and television, including Frost in May (where he played an impotent man-child) and How Many Miles to Babylon? (as a World War I officer torn between allegiances to Britain and Ireland) for the BBC. Eleven years after his film debut, Day-Lewis had a small part in the film Gandhi (1982) as Colin, a South African street thug who racially bullies the title character. In late 1982, he had his big theatre break when he took over the lead in Another Country, which had premiered in late 1981. Next, he took on a supporting role as the conflicted, but ultimately loyal, first mate in The Bounty (1984). He next joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, playing Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
In 1985, Day-Lewis gave his first critically acclaimed performance playing a young gay English man in an interracial relationship with a Pakistani youth in the film My Beautiful Laundrette. Directed by Stephen Frears, and written by Hanif Kureishi, the film is set in 1980s London during Margaret Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister. It is the first of three Day-Lewis films to appear in the BFI's 100 greatest British films of the 20th century, ranking 50th.
Day-Lewis gained further public notice that year with A Room with a View (1985), based on the novel by E. M. Forster. Set in the Edwardian period of turn-of-the-20th-century England, he portrayed an entirely different character: Cecil Vyse, the proper upper-class fiancé of the main character. In 1987, Day-Lewis assumed leading man status by starring in Philip Kaufman's adaptation of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, in which he portrayed a Czech surgeon whose hyperactive 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. During this period, Day-Lewis and other young British actors of the time, such as Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tim Roth, and Bruce Payne, were dubbed the "Brit Pack".
Day-Lewis progressed his personal version of method acting in 1989 with his performance as Christy Brown in Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot. It won him numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor and BAFTA Award for Best Actor. Brown, known as a writer and painter, was born with cerebral palsy, and was able to control only his left foot. Day-Lewis prepared for the role by making frequent visits to Sandymount School Clinic in Dublin, where he formed friendships with several people with disabilities, some of whom had no speech. During filming, he again refused to break character. Playing a severely paralysed character on screen, off screen Day-Lewis had to be moved 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 Brown's life, including the embarrassments. Crew members were also required to spoon-feed him. It was rumoured that he had broken two ribs during filming from assuming a hunched-over position in his wheelchair for so many weeks, something he denied years later at the 2013 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Day-Lewis returned to the stage in 1989 to work with Richard Eyre, as the title character in Hamlet at the National Theatre, London, but collapsed during the scene where the ghost of Hamlet's father appears before him. He began sobbing uncontrollably, and refused to go back on stage; he was replaced by Jeremy Northam, who received a standing ovation. Ian Charleson formally replaced Day-Lewis for the rest of the run. Although the incident was officially attributed to exhaustion, Day-Lewis claimed to have seen the ghost of his own father. He later explained that this was more of a metaphor than a hallucination. "To some extent I probably saw my father’s ghost every night, because of course if you’re working in a play like Hamlet, you explore everything through your own experience." He has not appeared on stage since. The media attention following his breakdown on-stage contributed to his decision to eventually move from England to Ireland in the mid-1990s, to regain a sense of privacy amidst his increasing fame.
Day-Lewis starred in the American film The Last of the Mohicans (1992), based on a novel by James Fenimore Cooper. Day-Lewis' character research for this film was well-publicised; he reportedly underwent rigorous weight training, and learned to live off the land and forest where his character lived, camping, hunting, and fishing. Day-Lewis also added to his wood-working skills, and learned how to make canoes. He carried a long rifle at all times during filming to remain in character.
He 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 2st 2 lb (30 lb or 14 kg) 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 insisted that crew members throw cold water at him and verbally abuse him. Starring opposite Emma Thompson (who played his lawyer Gareth Peirce), Day-Lewis earned his second Academy Award nomination, third BAFTA nomination, and second Golden Globe nomination.
Day-Lewis returned to the US in 1993, playing Newland Archer in Martin Scorsese's adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel The Age of Innocence. To prepare for the film, set in America's Gilded Age, he wore 1870s-period aristocratic clothing around New York City for two months, including top hat, cane, and cape. Although Day-Lewis had reservations about the role, regarding himself as “too English” for the part, he accepted due to Scorsese directing the film.
In 1996, Day-Lewis starred in The Crucible, a film version of the play by Arthur Miller. During the shoot, he met his future wife, Rebecca Miller, the author's daughter. He followed that with Jim Sheridan's The Boxer, starring as a former boxer and IRA member recently released from prison. His preparation included training with former boxing world champion Barry McGuigan. Immersing himself into the boxing scene, he watched ”Prince” Naseem Hamed train, and attended professional boxing matches such as the Nigel Benn vs. Gerald McClellan world title fight at London Arena. Impressed with Day-Lewis’s work in the ring, McGuigan stated he could have become a professional boxer. “If you eliminate the top ten middleweights in Britain, any of the other guys Daniel could have gone in and fought.”
Following The Boxer, Day-Lewis took a leave of absence from acting by going into "semi-retirement" and returning to his old passion of wood-working. He moved to Florence, Italy, where he became intrigued by the craft of shoe-making. He apprenticed as a shoe-maker with Stefano Bemer. For a time, his exact whereabouts and actions were not made publicly known.
After a three-year absence from acting on screen, Day-Lewis returned in 2000 to film Gangs of New York (2002), directed by Scorsese and produced by Harvey Weinstein. In his role as the villainous gang leader William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting, he starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, who played Bill's young protégé. He hired circus performers to teach him to throw knives. While filming, he was never out of character between takes (including keeping his character's New York accent). At one point during filming, having been 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. His performance in Gangs of New York earned him his third Academy Award nomination, and won him his second BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
After Gangs of New York, Day-Lewis' 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 brought up his teenage daughter. While filming, he arranged to live separately from his wife to achieve the "isolation" needed to focus on his own character's reality. The film received mixed reviews.
In 2007, Day-Lewis starred in Paul Thomas Anderson's loose film adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel Oil!, titled There Will Be Blood. Day-Lewis received the Academy Award for Best Actor, BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a 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 (which he dedicated to Heath Ledger, saying that he was inspired by Ledger's acting and calling the actor's performance in Brokeback Mountain "unique, perfect"), and a variety of film critics' circle awards for the role. In winning the Best Actor Oscar, Day-Lewis joined Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson as the only Best Actor winner awarded an Oscar in two non-consecutive decades.
In 2009, Day-Lewis starred in Rob Marshall's musical adaptation Nine as film director Guido Contini. He was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his role, as well as sharing nominations for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast and the Satellite Award for Best Cast – Motion Picture with the rest of the cast members.
—David Poland on Day-Lewis, February 2013
Day-Lewis played Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's film Lincoln (2012). Based on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, the film began shooting in Richmond, Virginia, in October 2011. Day-Lewis spent a year in preparation for the role, a time he had requested from Spielberg. He read over 100 books on Lincoln, and long worked with the make-up artist to achieve a physical likeness to Lincoln. Speaking in Lincoln’s voice throughout the entire shoot, he asked British crew members who shared his native English accent not to chat with him. On Day-Lewis’s portrayal, Spielberg states, “I never once looked the gift horse in the mouth. I never asked Daniel about his process. I didn’t want to know.” Lincoln received positive reviews, especially for Day-Lewis' performance. It also became a commercial success, grossing over $275 million worldwide. In November 2012 he received the BAFTA Britannia Award for Excellence in Film. The same month, Day-Lewis featured on the cover of Time magazine as the "World's Greatest Actor".
At the 70th Golden Globe Awards, on 14 January 2013, Day-Lewis won his second Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, and at the 66th British Academy Film Awards on 10 February, he won his fourth BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. At the 85th Academy Awards, Day-Lewis became the first three-time recipient of the Best Actor Oscar for his role in Lincoln. John Hartoch, Day-Lewis' acting teacher at Bristol Old Vic theatre school, said of his former pupil's achievement,
Although we have quite an impressive alumni – everyone from Jeremy Irons to Patrick Stewart – I suppose he is now probably the best known, and we're very proud of all he's achieved. I certainly hold him up to current students of an example, particularly as an example of how to manage your career with great integrity. He's never courted fame, and as a result, he's never had his private life impeached upon by the press. He's clearly not interested in celebrity as such – he's just interested in his acting. He is still a great craftsman.
Following his third Oscar for Best Actor, there was much debate about Day-Lewis' standing among the greatest actors in the history of cinema. Joe Queenan in The Guardian stated: "Arguing whether Daniel Day-Lewis is a greater actor than Laurence Olivier, or Richard Burton, or Marlon Brando, is like arguing whether Messi is more talented than Pelé, whether Napoleon Bonaparte edges out Alexander the Great as a military genius." Day-Lewis himself when asked what it was like to be "the world's greatest actor", responded "It's daft isn't it? It changes all the time". Shortly after winning the Oscar for Lincoln, Day-Lewis announced he would be taking a break from acting, retreating back to his Georgian farmhouse in County Wicklow, Ireland, for the next five years, before making another film.
After a five-year hiatus, Day-Lewis returned to the screen to star in Paul Thomas Anderson's historical drama Phantom Thread (2017). Set in 1950s London, Day-Lewis played an obsessive dressmaker, Reynolds Woodcock, who falls in love with a waitress (Vicky Krieps). Prior to the film's release, on 20 June 2017, Day-Lewis' spokeswoman, Leslee Dart, announced that he was retiring from acting. Unable to give an exact reason for his decision, in a November 2017 interview, Day-Lewis stated: "I haven't figured it out. But it's settled on me, and it's just there... I dread to use the over-used word 'artist', but there's something of the responsibility of the artist that hung over me. I need to believe in the value of what I'm doing. The work can seem vital, irresistible, even. And if an audience believes it, that should be good enough for me. But, lately, it isn't." On Day-Lewis's retirement, Anderson stated, “I would like to hope that he just needs a break. But I don't know. It sure doesn't seem like it right now, which is a big drag for all of us.” The film and his performance were met with universal praise from critics, and Day-Lewis was again nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Widely respected among his peers, in June 2017, Michael Simkins in The Guardian writes, "In this glittering cesspit we call the acting profession, there are plenty of rival thesps who, through sheer luck or happenstance, seem to have the career we ourselves could have had if only the cards had fallen differently. But Day-Lewis is, by common consent, even in the most sourly disposed green rooms – a class apart. We shall not look upon his like again – at least for a bit. Performers of his mercurial intensity come along once in a generation."
Protective of his privacy, Day-Lewis described his life as a "lifelong study in evasion". He had a relationship with French actress Isabelle Adjani that lasted six years, eventually ending after a split and reconciliation. Their son, Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis, was born on 9 April 1995, in New York City, a few months after the relationship 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 married later that year, on 13 November 1996. The couple have two sons, Ronan Cal Day-Lewis (born 1998) and Cashel Blake Day-Lewis (born 2002). They divide their time between their homes in Annamoe, County Wicklow, and Manhattan, New York.
Day-Lewis has held dual British and Irish citizenship since 1993. He has maintained his Annamoe home since 1997. He stated: "I do have dual citizenship, but I think of England as my country. I miss London very much, but I couldn't live there because there came a time when I needed to be private and was forced to be public by the press. I couldn't deal with it." He is a supporter of South East London football club Millwall. Day-Lewis is also an Ambassador for The Lir Academy, a new drama school at Trinity College Dublin, founded in 2011.
On 15 July 2010, Day-Lewis received an honorary doctorate in letters from the University of Bristol, in part because of his attendance of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in his youth. Day-Lewis has stated that he had "no real religious education", and that he "suppose[s]" he is "a die-hard agnostic". In October 2012, he donated to the University of Oxford papers belonging to his father, the poet Cecil Day-Lewis, including early drafts of the poet's work and letters from actor John Gielgud and literary figures such as W. H. Auden, Robert Graves, and Philip Larkin. In July 2015, he became the Honorary President of the Poetry Archive. A registered UK charity, the Poetry Archive is a free website containing a growing collection of recordings of English-language poets reading their work. In June 2017, Day-Lewis became a patron of the Wilfred Owen Association. Day-Lewis' association with Wilfred Owen began with his father, Cecil Day-Lewis, who edited Owen's poetry in the 1960s and his mother, Jill Balcon, who was a vice-president of the Wilfred Owen Association until her death in 2009.
In 2008, when he received the Academy Award for Best Actor from Helen Mirren (who was on presenting duty having won the previous year's Best Actress Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen), Day-Lewis knelt before her, and she tapped him on each shoulder with the Oscar statuette, to which he quipped: "That's the closest I'll come to ever getting a knighthood." Day-Lewis was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to drama. On 14 November 2014, he was knighted by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, in an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
|1980||Shoestring||DJ||Episode: "The Farmer Had a Wife"|
|1981||Thank You, P. G. Wodehouse||Psmith||Television film|
|1981||Artemis 81||Library Student||Television film|
|1982||How Many Miles to Babylon?||Alec||Television film|
|1982||Frost in May||Archie Hughes-Forret||Episode: "Beyond the Glass"|
|1983||Play of the Month||Gordon Whitehouse||Episode: "Dangerous Corner"|
|1985||My Brother Jonathan||Jonathan Dakers||5 episodes|
|1986||Screen Two||Dr. Kafka||Episode: "The Insurance Man"|
|1979||The Recruiting Officer||Townsperson/Soldier||Adrian Noble||Theatre Royal, Bristol|
|1979||Troilus and Cressida||Deiphobus||Richard Cottrell||Theatre Royal, Bristol|
|1979||Funny Peculiar||Stanley Baldry||Pete Postlethwaite||Little Theatre, Bristol|
|1979–80||Old King Cole||The Amazing Faz||Bob Crowley||Old Vic Theatre, Bristol|
|1980||Class Enemy||Iron||David Rome||Old Vic Theatre, Bristol|
|1980||Edward II||Leicester||Richard Cottrell||Old Vic Theatre, Bristol|
|1980||Oh, What a Lovely War!||Unknown||David Tucker||Theatre Royal, Bristol|
|1980||A Midsummer Night's Dream||Philostrate||Richard Cottrell||Theatre Royal, Bristol|
|1981||Look Back in Anger||Jimmy Porter||George Costigan||Little Theatre, Bristol|
|1981||Dracula||Count Dracula||George Costigan||Little Theatre, Bristol|
|1982–83||Another Country||Guy Bennett||Stuart Burge||Queen's Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue|
|1983–84||A Midsummer Night's Dream & Romeo and Juliet||Flute & Romeo respectively||Sheila Hancock & John Caird||On a Royal Shakespeare Company Regional Tour|
|1984||Dracula||Count Dracula||Christopher Bond||Half Moon Theatre, London|
|1986||Futurists||Volodya Mayakovsky||Richard Eyre||Royal National Theatre, London|
|1989||Hamlet||Hamlet||Richard Eyre||Royal National Theatre, London|
|2005||The Ballad of Jack and Rose||Original score producer|
|2009||Nine||Performer on "Guido's Song", "I Can't Make This Movie"|
Awards and nominations
- List of people on the postage stamps of Ireland
- List of actors with two or more Academy Awards in acting categories
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I know as an Englishman it's absolutely none of my business.
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Most of us would start any list of those few truly exceptional actors – the shape-shifters as they are sometimes called, individuals who can inhabit another character in its entirety without ever lapsing into impersonation – with Marlon Brando, then veer off into a truculent debate about whether Laurence Olivier was the greatest of them all or just an old ham with stale tricks. Robert De Niro would get a mention of course – Meryl Streep, no doubt. But almost everyone would finish with Day-Lewis.
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Michael Balcon's family were Latvian refugees from Riga who had come to England in the second half of the 19th century. The family of his wife, Aileen Leatherman, whom he married in 1924, came from Poland.
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|Awards and achievements|
for Rain Man
| Academy Award for Best Actor
for My Left Foot
for Reversal of Fortune
for The Last King of Scotland
| Academy Award for Best Actor
for There Will Be Blood
for The Artist
| Academy Award for Best Actor
for Dallas Buyers Club