Following the release of “The Boxer” in 1997, Daniel Day-Lewis, along with his wife Rebecca Miller and their children, moved to Florence, Italy. There, in semi-retirement from acting (at the age of 40), Daniel supposedly took an apprenticeship position as a shoemaker. The details during this seclusion period of Daniel’s life are a mystery, but nonetheless a fitting chapter in the overall enigma that is one of the screen’s most powerful actors.
Daniel, who has both English and Irish citizenship, was born in London in 1957. His mother was an actress and his father the British Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis. When he was 11, Daniel was sent to the Sevenoaks boarding school, where he discovered a passion for both woodworking and acting. At the age of 18, rejected as an apprenticeship to be a cabinet-maker, Daniel applied to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and studied there for three years. Daniel’s appearance in Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale” was one of the precious few performances his father would see of his son; the elder Day-Lewis died in 1972.
During this acting apprenticeship, Daniel continued to hone his craft on the stage as well as finding time to dabble in woodworking. Film work came to Daniel in the early 1980s – as a South African street bully in the 1982 Best Picture “Gandhi.” He’s a supporting character in “The Bounty,” the 1984 adventure drama starring Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins. In the highly praised Merchant-Ivory production “A Room with a View,” critics took note of the 28-year-old, but it was with “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” in 1988 in which Daniel finally took the reigns of the lead role. His portrayal of a Czech doctor romancing Juliette Binoche led to “My Left Foot” in 1989. His staggering performance as cerebral palsy-stricken artist Christy Brown, under the direction of Jim Sheridan, led to Daniel’s first Oscar nomination for Best Actor, which he won.
Landing on People magazine’s list of the 50 Most Beautiful People in 1990, Daniel continued projecting the unlikely role of sex symbol with his role of Hawkeye in the Michael Mann romance-adventure epic “The Last of the Mohicans” in 1992. Another period romance picture followed in 1993, this time under the direction of Martin Scorsese and opposite Michelle Pfeiffer. “The Age of Innocence” displayed Daniel as not only a leading man with magnetic screen appeal, but as a force to be reckoned with. That same year, “In the Name of the Father” marked his second collaboration with director Jim Sheridan and brought Daniel his second Oscar nomination.
Following a three-year hiatus, Daniel returned in “The Crucible,” the film adaptation of the Arthur Miller play. Prior to the shoot, Daniel met Miller’s daughter, Rebecca. The two married in 1996. A third teaming with Jim Sheridan resulted in “The Boxer” in 1997 and was Daniel’s last film of the decade. His seclusion in Italy while spending time on woodworking and as a cobbler lasted five years before Leonardo DiCaprio, Scorsese and the Weinstein brothers persuaded Daniel to return to the screen – or rather, to a set of 1860s New York in Rome. “Gangs of New York” marked Daniel’s third Oscar nomination. Under the direction of his wife, Daniel returned in 2005 in “The Ballad of Jack and Rose” before disappearing again until Paul Thomas Anderson sent him his new script with the actor in mind as the main character Daniel Plainview. “There Will Be Blood” marks Daniel’s fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Actor – among a host of other awards for both the movie and himself.
Daniel Day-Lewis’ career has been nothing short of tremendous. While he may not say so, it is clear that for Daniel to appear on screen, the project must be worth his talents. His complete immersion into his characters is not to wow any critics or audiences, but because it’s part of the job. As he says, “If I weren’t allowed this outlet, there wouldn’t be a place for me in society.”
Daniel on the Web
Ultimate web resource guide for Daniel.
TV Guide: Daniel-Day Lewis
Recent photos, latest news and TV listings of Daniel.
Detailed biography charting Daniel’s rise.
Good biography and some red carpet photos.
Eclectic fan page with latest news, sprawling galleries and archives.
Good interview with Daniel and Paul Thomas Anderson on “There Will Be Blood.”
Cinema Blend.com Interview
Video interview with Daniel on “There Will Be Blood.”
BBC Films Interview
Brief chat with Daniel on “Gangs of New York.”
Daniel on the Screen
He’s an uncredited child vandal in “Sunday Bloody Sunday” in 1971, and worked on both the stage and screen for the next decade. In the mid-1980s, Daniel started to receive higher profile roles, such as in “My Beautiful Launderette” and “A Room with a View.” He plays Kafka on TV in 1986’s “The Insurance Man.” He’s Tomas in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” Christy Brown in “My Left Foot,” Hawkeye in “Last of the Mohicans,” Newland Archer for Scorsese in “The Age of Innocence,” Gerry in “In the Name of the Father,” John Proctor in “The Crucible,” Danny Flynn in “The Boxer,” Bill Cutting in “Gangs of New York,” and Jack in “The Ballad of Jack and Rose.” Most recently, he’s Daniel Plainview for Paul Thomas Anderson in “There Will Be Blood.”
“There Will Be Blood” marks Daniel’s fourth Oscar nod – and he’s receiving plenty of recognition for his performance. As one would expect, Daniel currently doesn’t have any new projects lined up.
On life and art:
“Life comes first. What I see in the characters, I first try to see in life.”
On researching for “There Will Be Blood”:
“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.”
On movies and life in London:
“I always knew I could straddle different worlds. I’d grown up in two different worlds and if you can grow up in two different worlds, you can occupy four. Or six. Why put a limit on it?”
“A lifelong study of evasion.”