Jan 11 1998

Daniel Day Lewis was left nursing a broken nose on the set of The Boxer, thanks to former world champ Barry McGuigan.

By Ian Hyland, Sunday Mirror

Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day Lewis is used to suffering for his art. In My Left Foot, in which he played a cerebral palsy sufferer, he confined himself to a wheelchair for weeks.

For his role as one of the Guildford Four in In The Name of the Father he was locked in a cell, drenched in freezing water and deprived of sleep.

But his painstaking preparation for his latest movie, The Boxer, really takes some beating...350 rounds with the best of Britain's boxers. And a broken nose from ex-world champion Barry McGuigan.

"It helped me an awful lot to get rid of the illusion that I was making a film," says Day Lewis, a former public schoolboy whose father was Poet Laureate.

"Barry treated me like any other run-of-the-mill athlete who wanted to try to achieve the best they could. So while I was actually training to be a fighter the film was out of my mind."

The Boxer is released on March 13, and, says McGuigan: "Daniel trained harder than any fighter I've ever worked with.

"He was in the gym twice a day, seven days a week for nearly three years. I told him he didn't have to make it so tough but he was having none of it. He said: 'For me to act like a fighter I have to be a fighter'."

McGuigan adds: "The guy has a tasty left hook - and his right isn't too bad either. I retired years ago but let me tell you Daniel did his best to retire me again.

"He took some good punches from me and even though he ended up with a bloodied nose, fat lips and black eyes he never once went down."

Day Lewis, 40, was so obsessive about his training he insisted McGuigan put him in the ring against some current top boxers.

"I was worried at first, but in the end I put him in with some of the best fighters in his division, like British champion Geoff McCreash and Clayton Stewart, who co-stars in the movie," says McGuigan.

"They all said he was a tough customer - and these aren't the kind of guys who'd say that just to be nice...they meant it."

Day Lewis, who plays a former IRA convict trying to resume his boxing career after release from prison in The Boxer, even took McGuigan to one side and confessed his real ambition in life - to be a real-life professional fighter.

And McGuigan says: "He easily could be. Then again he's not doing too badly as a movie star, is he?"