Daniel Day-LEWIS - Actors and Actresses

(Sometimes Day Lewis). Nationality: British. Born: London, England, 29 April 1957; son of the poet laureate Cecil Day Lewis and the actress Jill Balcon. Family: Son with the actress Isabelle Adjani. Education: Attended Bedales School and at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Career: 1971—film debut as teenager in Sunday, Bloody Sunday ; stage work includes Another Country , 1982, Romeo and Juliet for the Royal Shakespeare Company, 1983–84, and Hamlet at the National Theatre, 1989; TV work includes The Insurance Man , 1985. Awards: Best Supporting Actor Award, New York Film Critics, for My Beautiful Laundrette and A Room with a View ; Oscar for Best Actor, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Best Actor Award, and Best Actor Award, New York Film Critics and Los Angeles Film Critics, for My Left Foot , 1989. Agent: c/o William Morris, 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, U.S.A.

Films as Actor:


Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Schlesinger)


Gandhi (Attenborough) (as Colin)


The Bounty (Donaldson) (as Fryer)


My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears) (as Johnny); The Insurance Man (Eyre—for TV) (as Mr. Kafka)


A Room with a View (Ivory) (as Cecil Vyse); Nanou (Templeman) (as Max)


Stars and Bars (O'Connor) (as Henderson Dores); The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Kaufman) (as Tomas)


My Left Foot (Sheridan) (as Christy Brown); Eversmile, New Jersey (Sorin) (as Dr. Fergus O'Connell)


The Last of the Mohicans (Michael Mann) (as Nathaniel Poe/Hawkeye)


In the Name of the Father (Sheridan) (as Gerald Conlon); The Age of Innocence (Scorsese) (as Newland Archer)


The Crucible (Hytner) (as John Proctor)


The Boxer (Sheridan) (as Danny Flynn)


By DAY-LEWIS: articles—

Interviews in City Limits (London), 10 April and 13 November 1986, and 7 April 1988.

Interview with Graham Fuller, in American Film (New York), January/February 1988.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder in The Crucible
Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder in The Crucible

Interview in Interview (New York), April 1988.

Interview with Allan Hunter, in Films and Filming (London), April 1988.

Interview in American Film (Los Angeles), December 1989.

Interview with Brian Case, in Time Out (UK), 4 November 1992.

Interview with Steve Grant, in Time Out (UK), 2 February 1994.

Interview with Brian Case, in Time Out (UK), 5 February 1997.

On DAY-LEWIS: books—

Jenkins, Garry, Daniel Day-Lewis: The Fire Within , London, 1994.

Jackson, Laura, Daniel Day-Lewis: Biography , 1995.

On DAY-LEWIS: articles—

McGillivray, David, "Daniel Day Lewis," in Films and Filming (London), August 1986.

Kennedy, Harlan, "Brit Pack," in Film Comment (New York), January/February 1988.

Mayne, Richard, "Framed: Daniel Day Lewis," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1989.

Gurewitsch, Matthew, "Risk Taker Supreme: Is Daniel Day Lewis Too Good to Be a Movie Star?," in Connoisseur , December 1989.

Current Biography 1990 , New York, 1990.

De Vries, Hilary, "Acting Up," in Rolling Stone (New York), 8 February 1990.

Woodward, Richard B., "The Intensely Imagined Life of Daniel Day-Lewis," in New York Times Magazine , 5 July 1992.

Buck, Joan Juliet, "Actor from the Shadows," in New Yorker , 12 October 1992.

Radio Times (UK), 12 February 1994.

Corliss, Richard, "Dashing Daniel," in Time (New York), 21 March 1994.

Douin, Jean-Luc, "L'impossible Monsieur Lewis," in Télérama (France), 19 January 1994.

* * *

Daniel Day-Lewis's instinctive, fiery power is unusual for a stage-trained British actor (something Gary Oldman and David Thewlis can only fake). Day-Lewis's repertory theater skills allow him to play men of disparate eras, nationalities, and tendencies with more surface fidelity than, say, De Niro. But at the same time he will go passionately freestyle in voice and movement in order to get at his character's motivation, a deliberate expense of effort that would have seemed superfluous to Olivier.

Day-Lewis came to moviegoers' attention with his smashing performance as Johnny in Stephen Frears's My Beautiful Laundrette , based on Hanif Kureishi's script. As a fascistic punk tired of his violent, pointless life, Day-Lewis brings fresh comic impulses to the naturalistic view of hopeless English kids and immigrant Pakistanis in depressed South London. When the Pakistani Omar recognizes his old schoolfriend Johnny in a threatening street gang, Johnny does not attack Omar, he falls for him (and for the economic advantage of associating with Omar's enterprising family). Like Sunday, Bloody Sunday , Laundrette does not load its gay characters with the pathos of unrecognized nobility; but unlike Peter Finch, Day-Lewis is movie-star sexy. His foxy eyes and quiet-confident body language help make Johnny one of the few characters in movie history with sexual imagination. When Johnny spits champagne from his mouth into Omar's, Day-Lewis creates a gay character more to be envied than censured.

Playing the Irish painter and writer Christy Brown, afflicted from childhood with cerebral palsy, in My Left Foot made Day-Lewis an international star. In such roles actors usually cannot help begging for sympathy. The playwright-director Jim Sheridan enabled Day-Lewis to shoot past pity to get at primal emotions about mother-son love and the rage for expression. Without coordinated movements and barely speaking comprehensibly Day-Lewis gave a performance about not swallowing nature's insults, about living fully with severe limitations, that had the vulcanized intensity of Robert De Niro's in Taxi Driver .

Day-Lewis scored again with Sheridan in In the Name of the Father , as Gerry Conlon, a Northern Irishman in London whose false imprisonment on charges of IRA terrorism tears his family apart. The English zealously fabricate evidence of a terror network within Gerry's family; this adolescent, semicriminal dork, living out a parody of his own futurelessness, ends up sharing a prison cell with his father. In My Left Foot Christy Brown scrawls the word "Mother" on the floor with chalk clenched in his toes. In the Name of the Father is about a young man face-to-face with an unassuming father who never impressed him. The movie comes from headlines, but Sheridan and Day-Lewis push it to a symbolic level: Gerry's being locked up with his father is a metaphor for how all young men feel locked in the prison upstairs with their dads. In Day-Lewis's finest speeches he relives his frustration over his father's weakness. But Gerry comes to appreciate the older man's nonviolent forbearance; he grows up by witnessing the virtues of the "model" he has been trying to reject.

Before working with Sheridan, Day-Lewis had starred impressively in Philip Kaufman's adaptation of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being , making Tomas's skirt-chasing seem an existential defiance of a politically dead culture. Day-Lewis played opposite two very different leading ladies, the almost impersonally provocative Lena Olin and Juliette Binoche with her needy hot-baby flesh. Working for Kaufman they brought an experienced tragicomic sensibility to a novel that was a trifle oversketched.

Day-Lewis was also a fine athletic lead in Michael Mann's handsome, large-scale Harlequinized The Last of the Mohicans . But it did not call on his special skills—he was not inauthentic as Tom Cruise would have been, but there was not anything to be authentic about. He was less interesting in Martin Scorsese's too well-mannered adaptation of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence , but the fault lies with the source. We never understand what makes Newland Archer superior to his surroundings, and when he does nothing to avoid marriage to a woman he does not love, it is hard to share the movie's concern for him. Thin roles can expose the calculations behind Day-Lewis's acting, most notably in his stiff performance as Cecil Vyse in A Room with a View . But he has a hot-spring of inspiration that usually keeps him running high, despite or perhaps because of the hiatuses between pictures. We await his new releases the way we looked forward to De Niro's in the 1970s.

—Alan Dale

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: