Channel: Oh No They Didn't!
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DDL's brother: Daniel won't talk to me anymore.


They share the same father, but haven’t spoken in 19 years. Daniel Day-Lewis's older brother Sean talks about the feud that drove the Oscar-winning star to cut a family tie

The signpost that hangs outside Daniel Day-Lewis’s home in the village of Annamoe, Co Wicklow, is as much a description of the way he lives his life as anything else. “Strictly Private, No Trespassing” it reads, preventing curious passers-by from continuing up the muddy track that leads to the pink, stonewashed Georgian farmhouse, where the actor lives with his wife, Rebecca Miller, and sons Ronan, 14, and Cashel, 10.

Six days after making history by winning his third Best Actor Oscar for his role in Lincoln, this is where Day-Lewis will spend the weekend. Hundreds of miles from the Hollywood Hills, it is surrounded by 100 acres of dense, peaceful Irish woodland. It was reported this week that he will retreat here for five years, turning his hand to traditional crafts such as stonemasonry, before making another movie.

Despite being in the spotlight for nearly 30 years, since his first critically acclaimed role as a homosexual punk in My Beautiful Laundrette in 1985, Day-Lewis has never embraced fame. Reclusive, intense verging on obsessive about his work, fiercely protective of his private life; he rejects his celebrity status, rarely giving interviews and shunning all but a few public appearances.

Daniel and Tamasin with parents Cecil and Jill in 1969 (PA)
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As a result, much of his life is shrouded in mystery. The son of the great Thirties poet Cecil Day-Lewis, Daniel is close to his sister Tamasin, a food writer, as he was to his mother, the actress Jill Balcon, who died in 2009. As well as his children with Miller, he has a teenage son, Gabriel-Kane, from a relationship with the French actress Isabelle Adjani, which Day-Lewis reportedly ended by fax. Friends say the actor gets on well with his first-born, now 17, yet he never speaks of him. “It has been drilled into my family that you don’t talk to journalists,” his sister Tamasin once said. “You don’t give anything away.”

But there is another side of Day-Lewis’s family about which even less is known. Before his father wed Balcon in 1951, Cecil was married to Mary King, the daughter of a master at Sherborne School in Dorset. The pair had two children, Sean and Nicholas, half-siblings to Daniel and Tamasin. Nicholas, a scientist, lives in Melbourne, Australia, and hasn’t set foot in England since graduating from Oxford in the Fifties. Sean, now 81, was a journalist – formerly this newspaper’s television critic – and lives in East Devon, a few miles from the old family home. It has been 19 years since he last spoke to his half-brother, and he desperately wants to get back in touch.

“I made a terrible mistake by helping an author who was writing a so-called biography of Dan,” explains Sean. “I only gave him my book [a biography of his father, C. Day Lewis: An English Literary Life, which Sean wrote in 1980]. I wanted him to get the facts right, and he didn’t even do that – he got birthdays on the wrong days. It was full of errors. Anyway, he acknowledged my help in the foreword and Dan saw that and completely blew me out of the water. He phoned me up and told me to '------- get a life’. '---- off,’ he said. I couldn’t get a word in. That was in 1994, and that was our last conversation.”

Sean Day-Lewis

Sean’s relationship with Daniel is not well-documented. There are no photographs of them together; no accounts of shared family Christmases or birthdays. Born in 1931, Sean spent his childhood in Musbury, Devon, and had a good relationship with his father, whom he describes as “very supportive, always”. The Cecil Day-Lewis poem Walking Away, which many assume to be about Daniel, was penned in 1956 about Sean, recalling his first day as a seven-year-old boarder at Allhallows School in Somerset.

Throughout his childhood, Sean knew Cecil was having a string of affairs – most famously with the novelist Rosamond Lehmann. He was doing National Service in the RAF when his father wrote telling him he was leaving the family home to move in with Balcon, then aged 23, just five years older than Sean. In his biography Sean says his father’s actions left “scorched earth… in his wake”. “I remember that last weekend,” he says, nostalgically. “I was standing in the house when the taxi came to take him to Axminster station. Then he went off to start his second family.”

Sean was 26 when Daniel was born (Tamasin arrived four years earlier, in 1953). The two families never lived together; Sean and Nicholas stayed with their mother in Devon, while Cecil and Balcon bought a flat in London. Later, when the Day-Lewises lived in Greenwich, Sean moved in for a month before he got married.

“We all got on quite well,” he recalls. “Dan was still a boy. I was allowed to beat him at ping-pong. They were a different generation. I thought they were terribly sophisticated. They had a nanny who would present them to their parents in the evening, all brushed up and turned out, for a story from my Pa.”

His relationship with Balcon, too, was civilised. “We were both trying to be generous to each other,” Sean explains. When Cecil died from pancreatic cancer in 1972, however, things soured. Sean, having got his father’s permission before his death, embarked on a biography of Cecil, which Daniel, Tamasin and, initially, Jill helped with. “She liked it at first, but when it got on to the affairs, she marked the manuscript up with more and more virulence,” he explains. “She really came to hate me from when the book came out.”

From then on, he and Daniel drifted apart. “Dan and Tamasin were teenagers so they were away at boarding school,” Sean remembers. “After our father died, those two went off into a corner of the garden for hours and they were terribly together after that. He wrote me quite a supportive letter when my book came out, saying he didn’t want to join in the vendetta. We were still friends but I didn’t visit the house any more.”

Sean continued to support his half-brother’s career. “I tried to go to everything he was in at the theatre, even when he was a spear-carrier at the Edinburgh Festival,” he laughs. “We [Sean and his wife Anna] went to it all. He didn’t like me writing anything about him, naturally. Dan hates publicity and doesn’t like journalists; and I was in a tribe of hacks.”

After Day-Lewis’s infamous performance of Hamlet at the National Theatre in 1989 – during which he walked offstage mid-act, having allegedly seen the ghost of his father – he sought solace in his family. “He was living within a street of where we were in Hammersmith so we saw him then,” says Sean. “Tamasin was a friend, too. We had lunches from time to time. But the last thing I heard from her was: 'I’ve got nothing against you but our paths won’t necessarily cross very often’. It was all a bit sad.”

A few years later, Sean received the phone call that ended his relationship with Daniel. Although they stopped speaking, Sean saw his half-brother more than ever – films including The Last of the Mohicans (1992), The Boxer (1997) and Gangs of New York (2002) meant Day-Lewis was never far from the limelight. “Am I proud? Absolutely,” says Sean, without hesitation. “I just wish my father had been around, because when he was alive, Dan was a bit of a tearaway and not expected to do very much. He did go to see Dan in a school play or two, but he hadn’t decided whether to be an actor or a furniture maker back then.”

Sean sees some of his father’s traits in himself (“the bad things,” he jokes); others are more evident in Daniel – not least Cecil’s striking good looks and self-deprecating humility. “Dan’s not only the best actor, but he’s the best person at doing those acceptance speeches,” he muses. “That elegant way of his is terribly copied from my father. He’s very keen and ambitious, but on the surface rather modest and gentlemanly.”

Cecil Day-Lewis’s grave is in St Michael’s Churchyard in Stinsford, Dorset, just across the border from Sean’s home.“Without telling me, Tamasin and Dan decided their mother should be buried beside him,” he explains. “One day when we went to look at the stone, we found it was missing and chased all around the churchyard in case it had been moved. I thought I might have been told, at least.” The stone is now back in place, with Jill’s name engraved, and Sean and his wife plan to visit soon to pay their respects. “Alas, it won’t be with Tamasin and Dan.”

Now in his eighties, Sean longs for a reconciliation. At home, he has a copy of that Cecil Day-Lewis biography – “the one that caused the problem”, he says, flicking wistfully through the pages. “It was nearly 20 years ago. I have no means of getting hold of Dan now except through his agent.” Does he hope, one day, to end the silence? “Yes, I would like that,” he says, resolutely. “Very much.”


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