From Lightness to Gangs, the passion of preparation

Born in London in 1957, Daniel Day-Lewis was the son of Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis and actress Jill Balcon, whose father, Sir Michael Balcon, was the head of the Ealing Studios from 1937 to 1959. A mix of Jewish and Irish blood, young Daniel often got into trouble before dedicating himself to acting and woodwork. In 1971 he got a tiny role in John Schlesinger’s «Sunday, Bloody Sunday,» before joining the Bristol’s Old Vic School, where he remained for three years. After appearing in a tiny role in Sir Richard Attenborough’s «Gandhi,» he collaborated with the BBC and joined – albeit briefly – the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1985, the actor was offered a chance to show his exceptional range by taking leading parts in Stephen Frears’s «My Beautiful Laundrette» and James Ivory’s «A Room With a View.» He then turned into absolute leading man material in Philip Kaufman’s 1988 adaptation of Milan Kundera’s «The Unbearable Lightness of Being.» But it was his interpretation of Christy Brown, an artist born with cerebral palsy, in «My Left Foot,» which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor in 1989. A selective choice of films followed: Michael Mann’s «The Last of the Mohicans» in 1992, Jim Sheridan’s «In the Name of the Father» and Martin Scorsese’s «The Age of Innocence» in 1993, Nicholas Hytner’s adaption of Arthur Miller’s «The Crucible» in 1996, Sheridan’s «The Boxer» in 1997 and Scorsese’s «Gangs of New York» in 2002. In 1989, Day-Lewis was interpreting William Shakespeare’s «Hamlet» in London. During one performance, the actor left the stage abruptly and has never returned since. Legendary ‘method’ Throughout his career, the actor’s «method» remains legendary. For instance, he: – Roamed the streets of New York City dressed in late-19th-century clothes during the filming of «The Age of Innocence.» – Learned Czech for his role in «The Unbearable Lightness of Being.» – Spent time with cerebral palsy patients and refused to remove his wheel chair while on location during «My Left Foot.» – Did rigorous body-building training, gained weight and lived in the wild before «The Last of the Mohicans.» – Entered jail and spent time under interrogation before «In the Name of the Father.» – Trained as a butcher next to top professionals and subsequently got involved in fistfights in the streets of Rome during the shoot of «Gangs of New York.»