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Best Actor Academy Awards Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1990 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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He is one of the best actors in the world. Known for his careful choice of his parts, he has acted in only 20 movies. However, he was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and he won 3 Best Actor Academy Awards which casted a shadow on the Hollywood greats DeNiro, Nicholson, Pacino etc.

Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis was born on April 29, 1957 in London. His father, Cecile Day-Lewis, although half-Irish, lived in England for most of his life. Four years before his death, he was named the United Kingdom ‘s Poet Laureate (Nicolas Blake). His mother, Jill Balcon was a Jewish actress. His maternal grandfather was a very important person in the history of British cinematography. He had artistic genes from every branch of the family. His older sister Tamasin Day-Lewis is a documentarian.

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They moved to Greenwich when he was 2. His father was 53 when Daniel was born and he never showed interest in his children. He died when Daniel was 15 which caused great emotional insecurity with the teenage Daniel. Living in Greenwich, which was known as a ‘tough’ part of London, he was surrounded by poor and troubled kids. He was considered a Posh Jew-Irish, so he was often bullied. When he was an adolescent he became an expert in the local accent and behaviour, so he claimed that these were the very beginnings of his acting career. Later, he spoke of his teenage self as ” very much a disorderly character in his younger years, often in trouble for shoplifting and other petty crimes” [1] 

In 1968 he was sent to a boarding school because his parents thought he was too wild. Even though memories from that school weren’t particularly nice, he discovered his greatest passions: fishing, woodworking and acting. His acting debut was in a play where he played a black kid and his first film was Sunday, Bloody Sunday, when he was 14. Although he was uncredited and the part was really insignificant (he was a vandal), he described this as ‘heaven’ because he was given £2 to destroy fancy cars.

When he was 18 he decided he had to choose a profession. Although he was a member of National Youth Theatre he decided to become a carpenter. He applied for a five-year apprenticeship but, fortunately, he was rejected due to his lack of experience. After that he joined the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School which he attended for three years. Daniel threw himself fully into the craft of drama.

In 1982, 11 years after his film debut, he acted in Academy Award winning Gandhi (1982), but the part was small. After that he joined the Royal Shakespearean Company playing Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Flute in A Midsummer Night Dream. This was followed by a role of a punk homosexual in My beautiful Laundrette, theater version of Dracula and A Room with a View (1986) featuring Helena Bonham Carter.

One of his first important roles was the one of a Czech surgeon Tomas in the Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being (1987) with Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin. The interesting fact about this movie is that during the eight months he spent in Prague, he learnt Czech and for the first time he refused to break character off set throughout the entire shooting. This was considered extremely eccentric at that point, but it was only the beginning for Daniel.

“I don’t rehearse at all in film if I can help it. In talking a character through, you define it. And if you define it, you kill it dead.”

The eccentricity reached its climax for the first time in 1989 with the part of Christy Brown in Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot. My Left Foot is actually a book, an autobiography of Christy Brown who had suffered from cerebral paralysis for his entire life and the only part of his body he could move was his left foot. He began painting and eventually became extremely famous. The first part of preparation for the role included frequent visits to a clinic in Dublin where he was in touch with people with various disabilities and he even formed friendship with a few, some of whom couldn’t even speak.

His version of the so called ‘method acting’ began developing in this particular movie. Again, he refused to break character which was more difficult in this situation. Off-set he constantly used the wheelchair, insisted on being spoon-fed and he had to be carried around constantly because he wanted to experience all aspects of Christy Brown’s life, especially shame and anger which he depicted perfectly in the film. He broke two ribs on the set due to hunched-over position in the wheelchair.

He won numerous rewards for this part including his first Best Actor Academy Award.

In 1989 he returned to theater for the part of Hamlet, however he collapsed on stage in the middle of the scene where Hamlet sees the ghost of his father. The rumor has it that he saw the ghost of his own father which he later confirmed. He hasn’t worked in the theater ever since.

In 1992, The Last of the Mohicans followed. The film was neither a success nor a particularly good film, however, his preparations were as always interesting. He underwent a very difficult diet and he lived in the forest isolated from the rest. He was hunting and fishing for survival, he learnt to build canoes, skin animals and carried the rifle all the time.

Four years after My Left Foot, he started a new cooperation with Jim Sheridan on his new film In the Name of the Father. He played Gerry Conlon, a member of the Guildford Four who were accused and convicted as bombers and the members of the IRA who spent 15 years in prison for the crime they didn’t commit. He kept his accent off set and spent a lot of time in a cell. On his request, he was constantly thrown cold water at and insulted. He was nominated for an Oscar but lost to Tom Hanks, ironically for the part he was offered.

He moved to County Wicklow in 1993 and assumed Irish citizenship.

In 1993 he began working with Martin Scorsese on The Age of Innocence with Winona Ryder and Michelle Pfeiffer. He wore clothing from the 19th century for two months and walked around New York City wearing a top hat, a cane and a cape in extremely cold weather.

In 1996 he started working with Arthur Miller on The Crucible. He met his wife-to -be, Miller’s daughter, Rebecca, whom he married a year later. He currently lives on a 50-acre farm in Ireland, with his wife and children Ronan Cal, 14, and Cashel Blake, 10. From a previous relationship with a French actress Isabelle Adjani he has a son, Gabriel Kane, 17. She claims that he broke up with here by fax when she told him she was pregnant. That is pretty much the only gossip you can find on Daniel Day-Lewis.

He ‘returned to’ Jim Sheridan in The Boxer (1996) with the part of a former boxer and IRA member. He prepared intensely, he was training twice a day for more than six months with the former boxing world champion Barry McGuigan who said that Daniel could turn pro. He had his nose broken during the filming.

He wanted to retire, so he moved to Florence and decided to return to his old love – woodworking. However, he became interested in another craft, cobblery. He became an apprentice and for the next 4 years no one knows where he actually was. When asked, he stated that “it was a period of my life that I had a right to, without any intervention of that kind.” [2] 

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Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002) was his great comeback. He was persuaded by DiCaprio to take the part. Actually, he has lured to New York on false pretenses and eventually accepted the part of Bill the Butcher, who, ironically, hates the Irish. He began his usual preparation for the character which included apprenticeship at the butcher’s. He was constantly listening to Eminem to get angry. While he was filming, he never broke character, he kept Bill’s New York accent. At one point he got very sick because he refused to wear a coat, that would be breaking the rules – they didn’t wear warmer coats in the 19th century. After being diagnosed with pneumonia and still refusing to wear a coat he had to seek treatment. He was nominated for an Oscar again.

After the Gangs, he acted on his wife’s film The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005), which received mixed reviews, but the interesting fact is that he lived in a hut on a beach, separated from his family to experience the emotions of his character.

In 2007, his role of the psychotic and misanthropic Daniel Plainview in There will be Blood brought him 23 awards including his second Best Actor Academy Award. His portrayal was listed in top 10 of the best performances ever.

In 2009 he decided to accept the role of Guido Contini in a somewhat different film from his usual ones, the Rob Marshall’s musical Nine, featuring Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman….He was nominated for a Golden Globe and many other awards despite the fact the movie wasn’t a huge success .

In 2010 it was announced that Daniel Day-Lewis would definitely play Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. The idea of this project existed for 10 years, however Daniel refused the part because it was completely preposterous for him to even think of him as Lincoln. Nevertheless, he was persuaded by Spielberg and yet again began his intense preparations for the part. He asked Spielberg for a year that was necessary for the preparation that included reading over 100 books on Lincoln, cooperation with make-up artists that achieved an excellent physical resemblance. He worked on the voice of Lincoln for a long time and when he finally came up with the final version, he sent the tape to Spielberg in a box with a scull on it so Spielberg would be the only person to hear it before the beginning of the shooting. The film was nominated for 7 Golden Globes and 12 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. It was also a huge commercial success, grossing 220 million dollars worldwide. Although the film didn’t win any of the major Academy Awards, Daniel won both Golden Globe and Academy Award. He thus became the only actor in history to win three Best Actor Academy Awards.

He was asked who he would like to play next and he replied: “I can’t think of anyone right now because I need to lie down for a couple of years. No, I can’t think of any. I really can’t, no. It’s hard to imagine doing anything after this.” [3] 

After this part he said he definitely needed rest so, knowing him, who knows when he would return to the set?

” I begin with a sense of mystery. In other words, I am intrigued by a life that seems very far removed from my own. And I have a sense of curiosity to discover that life and maybe change places with it for a while.”

“If I weren’t allowed this outlet, there wouldn’t be a place for me in society.”

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






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