Creator / Daniel Day-Lewis

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"I suppose I have a highly developed capacity for self-delusion, so it's no problem for me to believe that I'm somebody else."

Sir Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis (born 29 April 1957) is an English/Irish three-time Academy Award-winner and legendarily intense method actor. He has starred in such acclaimed films as My Left Foot, Age Of Innocence, The Last of the Mohicans, In the Name of the Father, Gangs of New York, There Will Be Blood, and Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's long-gestating biopic Lincoln. His Oscar win for this role made him the first man to win the Best Actor Oscar three times; he is also the only person to win an Oscar for playing an actual American President.

His father was British Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis and his maternal grandfather was film producer Michael Balcon. He's married to Arthur Miller's daughter Rebecca Miller, an accomplished writer in her own right, who he met while filming The Crucible.

He is parodied in Irish RTÉ series The Savage Eye, which plays up his supposed devotion to his roles and has him lapsing into them during the sketches.

On June 20, 2017, he announced his retirement from acting, calling it "a private decision". His final performance was in Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread, released on Christmas Day, 2017.


This actor provided examples of:

  • Badass Moustache: Two of the most iconic as Bill the Butcher and Daniel Plainview.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Let's be honest, he'd have been committed to an asylum long ago if he wasn't such a brilliant actor.
  • Call to Agriculture: After learning to make his own clothes in preparation for one film, he left film for six years to become a cobbler in Florence.
  • Chewing the Scenery: When the time calls for him to yell, he will YELL.
  • Creator Breakdown: Daniel's Method Acting once led to an incident where he collapsed into a sobbing wreck during a performance of Hamlet as the titular character, during the scene where Hamlet speaks to his father's ghost. Daniel later admitted that during the scene he saw his own father (who had died over a decade earlier). He never appeared on stage again.
  • Death Glare: Check out the absolute crackers he gives to his nurse/ future wife when she tries to take his hidden bottle of whiskey off him in My Left Foot, to Eli Sunday during his "confirmation" in There Will Be Blood, and at several points during Gangs of New York.
  • Doing It for the Art: As has been mentioned, Day-Lewis is one of the most well known method actors around, to the point where he's actually achieved a memetic status as the go to for insane dedication to acting, as during the filming process, he never gets out of character. While playing Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, he famously refused to seek medical treatment for pneumonia until it became almost life threatening, as it was not in keeping with available medical treatment in the 1860's. He also ad libbed tapping on his glass eye with a knife to intimidate William Tweed. When playing a villain, he will accost other actors in character on and off the set, and get into fights in bars in preparation for a role. When playing any character, he will spend six months mastering an accent,note  learning various crafts, and adopting disabilities.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Trained as a boxer for three years and broke a knuckle for his role in The Boxer.
  • Fake American: Several roles, such as Newland Archer, Hawkeye, Bill the Butcher, Daniel Plainview and Abraham Lincoln. He's a one-man history of 19th Century America.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: His jerkass fame (or infamy) has cost him roles, including ones that he probably would have enjoyed doing and would have been very good in, simply because some directors (such as Peter Jackson, when he was casting for Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings) are unwilling to subject themselves and the other actors under their care to his behavior.
  • Large Ham: See Chewing the Scenery for more details.
  • Man of a Thousand Faces: He changes his appearance and behaviors radically in every film he acts in.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: A bit more of a complicated example. His commitment to staying in character often makes him difficult to work with especially because he tends to gravitate to heavy roles with characters that are lashing out at the world and this often results in his lashing out at his coworkers during production. However, out-of-character, he is generally very soft-spoken and quite self-deprecating about his commitment to his craft. He also showed up to the Hope For Haiti Now telethon to help raise funds for the 2010 Haiti earthquake victims.
  • Method Acting: To say the least. He's famous for his exhaustive, in-depth preparations for his characters, for which he will always do extensive research, and not once breaking character until production is wrapped. He could be considered the patron saint of this trope.
  • Nice Jewish Boy: Though by his own admission he's an agnostic.
  • Parental Abandonment: His father died when he was fourteen. This became an issue years later when during a production of Hamlet, he had a nervous breakdown, specifically during the scene of confronting the father's ghost. Years later he admitted that he got so into the role, that he actually felt that he had seen his own father's ghost. It's his last theatrical role to date.
  • Playing Against Type: He doesn't exactly have a type, per se, but he first drew attention in America for playing two incredibly different roles in movies that happened to premiere in the US on the same day: as the repressed, snobbish, upper-class, Edwardian-era Englishman Cecil in A Room with a View; and Johnny, the gay ex-skinhead thug in Thatcher's London engaged in a forbidden romance with a Pakistani boy in My Beautiful Laundrette. Many critics were impressed that he did both roles so convincingly.
  • Production Posse: At the very least, Jim Sheridan, Martin Scorsese and now Paul Thomas Anderson are the only directors willing to work with him more than once.
  • Serious Business: Notoriously takes acting very seriously. Luckily he's very good at it.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • He actively campaigned for the part of Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, but was turned down by Quentin Tarantino.
    • He was also going to be cast as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings films when Stuart Townsend was kicked off the project, but Peter Jackson ended up going with Viggo Mortensen because of Day-Lewis's reputation as a difficult actor to work with. Had Mortensen actually drowned in The Two Towers film, however, he might've been Mortensen's replacement.
    • He was Jonathan Demme's first choice to play Andrew Beckett in Philadelphianote . He turned down the role to star in The Age of Innocence. Amusingly, he ended up losing the Academy Award for Best Actor to Tom Hanks, who was ultimately cast as Beckett.
    • He was considered for Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, but was deemed "too European".

Filmography


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