“While Daniel Day-Lewis may appear a bit rough, his demeanor is courtly,” writes N.Y. Times profiler Lynn Hirschberg. “You have to possess something utterly to push it away, and whether it’s his extreme good looks, which he obscures beneath the trappings of a bohemian pirate, or his cultured background, which he disparages, Day-Lewis has an intense attraction to the opposite of whatever he came by easily.

“He is particularly compelled by the idea of spontaneity, but there is nothing sloppy or haphazard about him, and that lends Day-Lewis, despite his careworn clothes, a quality of grace. He is most voluble and passionate on the subject of film. He loves even bad movies and likes to analyze the work of actors past and present. Day-Lewis reveres the greats — Brando, DeNiro — but he is intrigued by all kinds of performances. He dislikes John Wayne, loves Gary Cooper, prefers the Jimmy Stewart of Capra’s classic pictures to the Stewart of Anthony Mann‘s westerns and is fascinated by Clint Eastwood.

“‘I used to go to all-night screenings of his movies,’ Day-Lewis recalls. ‘I’d stagger out at 5 in the morning, trying to be loose-limbed and mean and taciturn.’ He paused. ‘My love for American movies was like a secret that I carried around with me. I always knew I could straddle different worlds. I’d grown up in two different worlds and if you can grow up in two different worlds, you can occupy four. Or six. Why put a limit on it?’