An actor whose on-screen intensity is rivalled only by his off-screen intensity, Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most acclaimed and least understood performers of his generation. The stories surrounding his complete immersion in his roles are legendary, from his insistence on remaining in a wheelchair between takes for My Left Foot to his refusal to accept manufactured cigarettes in favor of rolling his own, 18th-century style, while filming The Last of the Mohicans.
Day-Lewis' highly cerebral approach to his work may emanate in part from his background. Born in London on April 29, 1957, he was the son of Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis and actress Jill Balcon. The influence of the cinema was particularly strong on his mother's side: she was the daughter of Sir Michael Balcon, the one-time head of Ealing Studios. Educated at various public schools, Day-Lewis took an early interest in acting. After dropping out of school at the age of thirteen, he managed to get a small part in John Schlesinger's Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971). Following his debut, he decided to focus on his theatrical training, which he received at the Bristol Old Vic. He acted with that theatre and with the Royal Shakespeare Company for the rest of the decade, and in 1982 he made his second film appearance, playing a street thug in Gandhi.