September 11, 1995 12:00 PM

by Garry Jenkins

Lighten up, Danny boy! Anglo-Irish actor Daniel Day-Lewis has a reputation for intensity both on and off the set, but this unauthorized biography makes it clear that the Academy Award-winning star sometimes takes all of it too seriously.

When filming My Left Foot, in which he played the Irish writer Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy, Day-Lewis insisted on staying in character all day, so members of the film crew had to spoon-feed him lunch. During Last of the Mohicans, while cameras were reloaded between takes, the actor would turn down cigarettes offered to him and roll his own, 18th-century style.

Hired to play Newland Archer in Martin Scorsese’s film version of The Age of Innocence, the Edith Wharton classic about New York City society in the 1870s, Day-Lewis checked into a small, old-fashioned Manhattan hotel, registered under his own name—then let his sideburns grow, slipped into a period suit and reregistered as Mr. N. Archer.

The actor was less obsessive about playing a homosexual punk in My Beautiful Laundrette. He and costar Gordon Warnecke passionately embraced for the cameras, but they spent their breaks swilling Listerine and talking earnestly about their girlfriends.

Day-Lewis refused to speak to Jenkins, a former Daily Mail reporter, but the book doesn’t suffer much as a result—the actor’s actions are revealing enough. (St. Martin’s, $22.95)

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