Daniel Day-Lewis was born on April 29, 1957, into a well-to-do and creative family in London, England. His father, Cecil Day-Lewis, was a writer, enjoyed the honour of being England’s poet laureate for the last four years of his life. His mother, Jill Balcon, was an actress. In 1968, Day-Lewis’ parents, finding his behaviour to be too wild, sent him to the independent Sevenoaks School in Kent as a boarder.
Though he detested the school, he was introduced to his three most prominent interests: woodworking, acting, and fishing. His disparagement for the school grew, and after two years at Sevenoaks, he was transferred to another independent school, Bedales in Petersfield, Hampshire,which his sister attended, and which had a more relaxed and creative ethos.
Despite his lack of success in school, Day-Lewis had plenty of other talents. He shared the Balcon family inclination to act, but he was initially more drawn to working-class pursuits than to the stage.
Enamoured with woodworking and craftsmanship as a teenager, he focused for a time on these pursuits rather than on acting. He continued to appear in films and plays for several years, during which time he developed his much noted and intense acting style.
Applying the same ethos to drama as he did to woodworking, Day-Lewis became a method actor who devotes himself physically, psychologically, and emotionally to getting in character for each of his roles.
In 1986, Day-Lewis’s career started to gather steam with his acclaimed role in A Room with a View (1986). His first leading role came shortly after, in 1987, when he starred opposite Juliette Binoche in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
In 1985, Day-Lewis played a gay man in an interracial relationship in the film My Beautiful Laundrette, set in 1980s London during the period when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.
Day-Lewis gained further public notice with A Room with a View (1985). Set in the Edwardian period of turn-of-the-twentieth-century England, he portrayed an entirely different character: Cecil Vyse, the proper upper class fiancé of the main character (played by Helena Bonham Carter).
In 1987, Day-Lewis assumed leading man status by starring in Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, co-starring Lena Olin and Juliette Binoche, where he portrayed a Czech surgeon whose hyperactive sex life is thrown into disarray when he allows himself to become emotionally involved with a woman.
In 1996, Day-Lewis starred in The Crucible, a film version of the play by Arthur Miller, again opposite Winona Ryder. During the shoot he met his future wife, Rebecca Miller, the author’s daughter.
He followed that with Jim Sheridan’s The Boxer as a former boxer and IRA member recently released from prison. His preparation included training with former boxing world champion Barry McGuigan.
In 1996, while working on the film version of the stage play The Crucible, he visited the home of playwright Arthur Miller where he was introduced to the writer’s daughter, Rebecca Miller.
They married later that year. The couple have two sons, Ronan Cal Day-Lewis (born 1998) and Cashel Blake Day-Lewis (born 2002) and divide their time between their homes in New York City and Ireland.
Day-Lewis became an Irish citizen in 1993and currently holds British and Irish dual citizenship. He has lived in Annamoe, County Wicklow since 1997.