Daniel Day-Lewis (1957-) b. London, England.
Raised in a middle-class literary home, Day-Lewis was the son of famed writer and English Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis and actress Jill Balcon, the daughter of Ealing Studios founder Michael Balcon. He was educated Sevenoaks boarding school in Kent, but hated the experience and was sent to join his sister at the more progressive Bedales in Petersfield. He became interested in acting at a young age, and in 1973, Day-Lewis joined the National Youth Theatre, but found the experience to be degrading and soon left. He subsequently joined the Bristol Old Vic and appeared on stage in several noted performances. Day-Lewis’ final stage appearance was in 1989, when, whilst playing Hamlet in Richard Eyre’s production at the National Theatre, he stormed out midway through a performance, never to return. His subsequently went into hiding amid ghoulish tabloid rumours of him conversing on stage with the ghost of his dead father, although exhaustion has been cited as a more plausible explanation.
Day-Lewis made his film debut in Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971). He began his film career in earnest with a small part as a street bully in Richard Attenborough’s historical epic Gandhi (1982), and with a supporting role in The Bounty (1984). It was his brash performance as a swaggering punk in Stephen Frears My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) that made international critics take notice of the young actor’s unmistakable talent. Notable reviews followed, including the adaptation of EM Forster’s A Room with a View (1985), playing the foppish and insufferable fiancé of a young Helena Bonham Carter. In Philip Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1985), Day-Lewis delivered a strong performance as a philandering Czech doctor visiting the West who struggles with the decision whether or not to return to his wife behind the Iron Curtain. With a desire to escape growing media attention and the film industry he disparagingly calls ‘the business’, the publicity-shy Day-Lewis moved to County Wicklow in the southeast of Ireland. Day-Lewis’s went to great lengths to perfect his unforgettable portrayal of the palsy-stricken Irish writer and painter Christy Brown in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot (1989). Day-Lewis notably transformed himself for the latter role, spending weeks preparing in a Dublin clinic in a wheelchair all day and being spoon fed; winning the Best Actor Oscar for his performance.
Day-Lewis stayed away from movie making for four years after his win, emerging in 1993 for Michael Mann’s historical epic, The Last of the Mohicans (1993), a lush romantic adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel. That year, he also starred in his second collaboration with Jim Sheridan, In the Name of the Father (1993), a searing drama about the wrongly accused Guildford Four. Day-Lewis lived in a prison cell to prepare for playing the accused IRA bomber Gerry Conlon and earned an Oscar nod for his work on the film. Other notable films followed, including Martin Scorsese’s lush and operatic adaptation of Judith Wharton’s novel, Age of Innocence (1993), a well-crafted adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1996) and his third collaboration with Jim Sheridan, The Boxer (1997), before he retreated into semi-retirement in Italy.
In 2002, Day-Lewis returned to the Hollywood spotlight to depict the rough and violent world of Irish immigrants in Martin Scorsese’s epic Gangs of New York, earning Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for one of his finest performances to date. He also starred in a loosely-based adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel, "Oil!” about the life of a self-made oil tycoon battling with an Evangelical church preacher in the much-lauded 2007 film There Will Be Blood. The actor earned a Best Actor Golden Globe and a second Oscar for Best Actor in a leading role.