10 Things You Didn't Know About... Daniel Day Lewis
Picking up his third Academy Award for Best Actor in 2013 for his performance in Steven Spielberg's Abraham Lincoln biopic, Daniel Day Lewis joined the ranks of the world's most decorated actors, joining Jack Nicholson and Walter Brennan as one of only three men to win three awards for acting at the Oscars, and the only man in history to win three times for a leading role.
Despite this, he's always kept a relatively low profile compared to most Hollywood actors. He's one of the most selective actors around, starring in only four feature films over the last decade. When he does accept a role though, he gives it everything and tales of his preparation for roles and his devoted approach to method acting have become the stuff of legend.
We picked out some of these and other facts you may not know about Daniel Day Lewis...
1. He was paid just £2 for his first film role
Appearing on a cinema screen for the first time at the age of 14, Day-Lewis' first film role was as a hoodlum in John Schlesinger's 1971 film Sunday Bloody Sunday, earning himself the princely sum of two quid for vandalising cars and generally being an on-screen lout.
2. He built a house as part of preparation for his role in The Crucible
Day-Lewis is renowned for going to extraordinary lengths to prepare for each role. He learned to speak Czech for his role in The Unbearable Lightness of Being and lived in a prison cell for 30 days while preparing for his role as Gerry Conlon in In The Name of the Father, but for The Crucible he actually built the house on set that his character would live in, adding bricklaying and set design to his impressive list of talents. Also, he reportedly didn't bathe for the duration of filming in order to experience 17th Century life to the fullest. Gross.
3. He caught pneumonia while making Gangs of New York
Day-Lewis rarely drops out of character during the filmmaking process and during the making of Martin Scorsese's historical epic Gangs of New York he reportedly caught pneumonia as a result of his refusal to wear a modern coat, saying that the garment was not in keeping with the time period or his character. It is also rumoured that his recovery time was longer than it might have been as he also refused modern medicine for the same reason.
4. His father was a poet laureate
The product of a family that included an actress mother and a maternal grandfather that was a producer at the legendary Ealing film studios, Day-Lewis' father was the poet Cecil Day-Lewis, who served as poet laureate from 1968 to 1972.
5. He was frequently in trouble with the law as a teenager
Sent to a different public school than that of his sister, Day-Lewis was unhappy with his new surroundings and has claimed that he was frequently in trouble for shoplifting and other petty crimes, all attempts to get himself expelled from the school in Sevenoaks, Kent. It didn't work.
6. He supports Millwall Football Club
It's hard to imagine Daniel Day-Lewis standing on the terraces with a pie and singing songs about Danny Shittu, but as surprising as it may be, he's a football fan and having grown up in south London it was the Lions he chose to support: "A house full of great books about art and literature was all well and good, but I was fascinated by the streets that were close by – Lewisham, New Cross and Deptford. I supported Millwall with great gusto and was on the terraces every Saturday with the rest of the lads.”
7. He makes his own shoes
No, really. Day-Lewis is quite the handyman (he built a house, remember?) and cobbling is one of his hobbies, along with carpentry. He apparently spent quite a lot of his downtime after filming My Left Foot by making footwear.
8. He walked off stage during a performance of Hamlet in 1989, and hasn't appeared in a theatre since
This is actually a pretty well known story, however the reason he walked off stage was not, contrary to popular belief, because he saw a ghost of his father during the performance. The rumour gained traction partly because of a misquote, but also because he gives interviews so rarely that by the time he'd been asked if this was true it had already become the myth that it is now. However, he clarified that this wasn't the case in an interview with Time magazine in 2012: “I may have said a lot of things in the immediate aftermath and to some extent I probably saw my father’s ghost every night, because of course if you’re working in a play like Hamlet you explore everything through your own experience... but I don’t remember seeing any ghosts of my father on that dreadful night.”
9. He spent 18 months training with Barry McGuigan for his role in The Boxer
Never one to do things by halves, the actor spent a year and a half training for his role in Jim Sheridan's 1997 film, but Day-Lewis went a stage further and enlisted the help of former WBA world champion Barry McGuigan to teach him his skills. By the end, McGuigan was quoted as saying “what an athlete!” and that he though the actor could easily turn pro if he wanted to.
10. He broke two ribs filming My Left Foot
It's reasonably well-known that Day-Lewis does many of his own stunts, so when you first hear this story you assume it would be the result of this, but no. He actually fell out of his wheelchair because he was slouching. As usual, he refused to drop out of character all the way through filming, meaning that disgruntled crew members were constantly having to lift him over cables, tracks and other pieces of kit to get him to and from his trailer. Left alone, he toppled the wheelchair and broke a couple of ribs in the process.