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Monday 11 December 2017

Unbearable lightness of being Day-Lewis's son

Oscar-winning actor's son is rapping about his pain, his father's fame and his parents' split. Sing a new song, says Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

IN 1989 Daniel Day-Lewis ran from the stage at the National Theatre in London during his performance of Hamlet. The actor claimed that he had seen the ghost of his father Cecil, the British Poet Laureate, who died when Daniel was 15.

He later described it as a "vivid, almost hallucinatory experience", while also insisting that the ghost had been more metaphorical than literal. Still, it was one of the most telling moments of his career. While going on to become the greatest screen actor of his generation, he never again returned to the stage.

Now, almost a quarter of a century later, a different kind of drama is beginning to play out – and this time it involves the next generation of the Day-Lewis dynasty: the three-time Oscar winner's own son, Gabriel Kane. The 18-year-old may be cut from the finest theatrical cloth but he has styled himself a hip hop artist and a "stoop kid" who raps about teenage angst and of "trying to figure out how to be a man". Marijuana is also one of 'Gabe Day's' themes – his video shows him using a grinder for the drug and putting a green substance into a rolled up piece of paper, as he sings "is that blunt still burning?".

"I find out that I'm bipolar, now I wear it like a badge," he raps. "I was on a bad path. I did too many drugs. Felt like coping on my own when all I needed was a hug. I had a bad trip, re-evaluated my life. Thank God I survived cause now it's easier to smile."

More interestingly, however, Gabe addresses the reflected fame his father brought him as well as the fallout from his parents splitting up.

"For those that know my dad, he's been in films right, so my life has been more exposed than yours has," he rhymes.

Judging him for being Day-Lewis' son, he says, "would be as bad as being racist". Perhaps the most poignant line from the wannabe rapper comes at the end: "I feel the most grief in my life for my mother who has no one left in her life except me and my older brother."

That would be Isabelle Adjani, who found out she was pregnant while in Ireland in 1994 and gave birth in May the following year even as her child's father was rekindling his relationship with Julia Roberts. Day-Lewis had asked to be present during the birth in New York and Adjani, while initially thrilled – she still loved him – was later devastated when she concluded that the visit had also been to see Roberts. At the birth Day-Lewis had "greeted me vaguely", she said, and quickly left. By the following year Day-Lewis had moved on again, this time with personal trainer Deya Pichardo. Later that year when Adjani heard that Day-Lewis had finally married she magnanimously called Pichardo, whom she assumed was the new bride, to congratulate her, only to find out that Day-Lewis had instead married Rebecca Miller, the glamorous daughter of playwright Arthur Miller, whom he had met on the set of The Crucible.

The previous year Rebecca Miller had written and directed her own film, Angela, with its central themes of childhood abandonment and parents who are performers. Given the winsome looks and blonde hair of her leading actress, Miranda Rhyne, the play was taken to be a comment on the life of Marilyn Monroe – who famously married Rebecca's father – but might have also been apposite to the situation her new husband found himself in. Day-Lewis was reported to have faxed Adjani his regrets that the relationship was over while she was carrying Gabe.

Adjani later publicly called him a "Lothario" and "a womaniser" and alleged that he initially made no financial contribution to the child's support. Day-Lewis's own uncle, Jonathan Falcon, branded him "a bounder" whose morals were "up the spout".

But, in a rare interview, he said: "It utterly changed my life. I don't think there's a parent on this earth who would give you a different answer."

As time went by, Day-Lewis would go on to have two more sons, with Miller – Ronan Cal and Cashel – and nurture a close relationship with his eldest boy. Perhaps in this flowering of paternal commitment he remembered his own quest for a father. The year after Gabe was born Day-Lewis implied he would have liked to have been adopted by Arthur Miller. He spoke of turning up on the writer's doorstep with adoption papers, and said: "There's something about Arthur Miller that makes you wish he was your father."

He and Rebecca moved in with her father shortly before he died in 2005. During that period Day-Lewis encouraged Arthur Miller to re-establish contact with a Down syndrome son whom he had put up for adoption 40 years previously. The actor took to taking weekly visits to the man, also called Daniel. It's possible that Day-Lewis's own progeny wasn't far from his mind. Today he and Gabe are on very good terms: they were photographed together earlier this year in Manhattan. Perhaps now might be the time to advise the young man that rapping about how your father being the most successful actor alive has caused you mental anguish might not be the coolest move on the block.

Sunday Independent

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