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Way Back When: Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Actor Nominee

Daniel Day-Lewis
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The Oscars are almost upon us, which means we’re at the end of our special edition of Way Back When. In our final entry, we’ll take a look back at the early work of Daniel Day-Lewis, nominated for Best Actor for his performance in ‘Lincoln.’


One of Daniel Day-Lewis’ earliest roles was a tiny, tiny part in an episode of the short-lived television series ‘Shoestring,’ about a private detective who takes cases from people who call in to a local radio station. In the episode “The Farmer Had a Wife,” Daniel Day-Lewis plays a radio DJ — it’s such a small role that you’ll miss him if you aren’t paying attention, but that’s him introducing the detective:

‘Artemis ’81′

In 1981, Day-Lewis had another small role, this time in the BBC TV movie ‘Artemis ’81,’ about an angel of light and an angel of death waging war over the fate of mankind. And yet because it’s the BBC, there’s not a whole lot of action going on. You can see Day-Lewis in the clip below around the 2:48 mark, playing a young, studious man in a library because we all know libraries are where wars between angels over the lives of men are really fought and won:

‘How Many Miles to Babylon?’

Day-Lewis next starred in this 1982 movie, in which he had a much more prominent role this time around. He plays Alexander Moore, who, along with his childhood friend Jerry, is sent off to war in 1914. While Alex is an army officer, Jerry is a mere private, and they remain close friends until Jerry is removed from the army for desertion, and Alex is forced to head up the firing squad. In the clip below, Day-Lewis’ character tells his mother he has no business shooting anyone:


Day-Lewis’ first role in a major feature film was in the 1982 biopic ‘Gandhi,’ starring Sir Ben Kingsley as the famed lawyer-turned-religious figure. Day-Lewis plays a real racist jerk in this short scene below:

‘The Bounty’

Next was the 1984 film ‘The Bounty,’ starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as the famously cruel Lieutenant William Bligh, whose behavior leads to a mutiny aboard his ship. Day-Lewis plays John Fryer, one of the military men aboard the ship, and you can check him out a bit in this clip of an uncomfortable dinner scene:

‘My Beautiful Laundrette’

On the verge of becoming a big star, Daniel Day-Lewis starred in this 1985 film directed by Stephen Frears about a punk named Johnny and his Asian Briton lover, who try to make their relationship work while opening a fancy laundromat.

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