Daniel Day Lewis
The wedding of Daniel Day Lewis to playwright Arthur Miller’s daughter, Rebecca, came as a suprise to Deya Picardo, the woman who thought she was his steady girlfriend. But after studying his life, clinical Psychologist Oliver James believes it typifies his treatment of women.
Daniel Day Lewis has maintained that his father - Poet Laureate, Cecil - is the key to his personality.
As Daniel once put it, his father ‘provided the sack of genes of which I am finally proud’.
But our genes come equally from both our parents. Day Lewis’ omission of his mother’s contribution is a strong clue to the fact that he has ignored the role of women in causing his flaky, perfidious relations with them.
As it happens, my first girlfriend was best friends with Day Lewis’ first, and until now, only true love, Sarah Campbell.
Their relationship lasted a decade and throughout the 1970s I had firsthand knowledge of his selfish treatment of her. He was moody, depressive and heartlessly incommunicative.
Simon Dunstan was a flatmate of Day Lewis’ at the time and recalls ‘He could be dark, rude, very gloomy. He saw himself as a tragic hero’.
He felt sorry for Sarah. ‘Their relationship lasted so long because he had the space. He would go off for ages and not ring her. She was a saint, she gave her life to him.’
Having nursed him through the bad times of his teens and early twenties, she was dumped for a famous actress when he hit the big time.
His treatment of other women has been no better. Famously, he ended his relationship with Isabelle Adjani by fax when she was 7 months pregnant with his child.
His misogny has its roots not in his relationship with his father but with the women who cared for him as a child.
True, his father was a cold, spectacularly good-looking man with a charming facade who broke many hearts, and in this they are the same.
But the key to Day Lewis junior was the schizophrenic chidcare regime ogranized by his mother, actress Jill Balcon.
Over-strict discipline at the hands of nanny Minny Bowler for his first six years was mixed with indulgence from Balcon.
Neither of his parents were much involved emotionally or practically in the early years. His half brother Sean recalls ‘Cecil was a remote figure. It didn’t appear to me Jill was any less so’.
She later admitted that she had been possessive of her husband and did not want the children to come between them. ‘Maybe I was guilty of excluding the children from my relationship with Cecil’.
Strongly encouraged by Balcon, nanny Bowler established a strict, stark tyranny based around instilling the three Ps of punctuality, politeness and presentation.
Half brother Sean recalls that the children were presented to the parents at teatime looking ‘terribly spick and span’.
Ironically, considering his notoriously ill-kempt, neglected clothing and wayward hairstyles in later life, the 5 year old Day Lewis refused to go out without wearing a tie and had his hair cut at Harrods in conventional style.
Aged 6, he came home one day to find nanny Bowler had been abruptly replaced with Jenny Dormer. She was shocked by the inflexibility of the regime.
In her three years with the family, Day Lewis’ bathtime remained at the same hour and his parents would be ‘very annoyed’ if it varied by even 5 minutes.
His bedtime also did not change, even though he was 9 when she left and she felt sorry for him. ‘I used to feel it was some kind of imprisonement’.
There was a lack of love. ‘He was suppressed. He needed lots of hugs and kisses. He would get them from his mother but it never seemed to be spontaneous’.
Perhaps because he had been subject to turanny, he became like that himself. Recalls Dormer, ‘He used to say ‘you are my servant’’. Is that his view of partners in later life?
He developed a false self, a mask for dealing with adults, the forerunner of his chameleon’s ability to enter into acting parts in later life but covering a nastier side.
Says Dormer ‘There were two sides to him. He was so angelic when his mother was around, wearing that fixed, cheshire cat grin’.
But when Balcon left he could be vicious. He once told Dormer ‘you’ve got really fat legs, cover them up’. He could be equally two-faced about his mother, smiling at her but when she left saying ‘I f---ing hate her, stupid cow’.
Day Lewis’ experiences at the hands of nurse Bowler and his mother may have left him with a terror of ever being at the mercy of a woman again and with a repressed hatred.
As she embarks on her marital life, Rebecca Miller would do well to pay close attention to two comments about Day Lewis.
One is by Simon Dunstan ‘I don’t think Daniel could ‘do’ commitment’ (in a relationship).
The other is by Day Lewis himself. ‘I have always allowed the work to dictate the circumstance of my life. Its a marriage’.