Maria Macdougall always knew she wanted to have children. “A boy and a girl,” she’d announce firmly, as if saying it made it more likely to be true, “and then I’ll be done.” She and her husband Christopher, a wealthy, old money Boston native were lucky to get both in one fell swoop. Born on March 11th, 1970, Daniel and Devon Vanderlaar met their parents screaming and shrieking, and their desire to be heard was enough to curb any desire for more children. Maria was fortunate enough to stay home and attend to her children, and for the first few years of their lives, she did. Daniel’s childhood was full of adventures and laughter, learning experiences and childish antics. He was happy and fulfilled. By the time school rolled around, Maria’s parental attention began to slack and as her children were sent to school, she gradually became more interested in yoga and pilates than she was in paying attention her children.
Despite this, Daniel did well in school. More sociable than his sister, he thrived in class and garnered quite the reputation as a class clown, his reports home chronically littered with “talks too much, too loudly”. Danny’s preference for dramatics became noticeable very quickly. A vivid and lively storyteller, his desire for attention manifested as itself as white lies that grew larger and larger, before they became so problematic that his parents had to be pulled into the situation. Christopher was immensely disappointed, sure that his son would’ve stayed on the straight and narrow had he not always been so busy with work. Maria, on the other hand, became emblazoned by the words, hearing only dramatic, storyteller, and vivacious. She was sure he could be something, positive that her child was destined for greatness and without further hesitation, Maria enrolled ten-year-old Danny in every after-school theater program that she could sink her claws into.
And she had been right – he thrived. Encouraged by the attention and becoming interested in creative expression, Daniel felt as if he had found his niche in school. He had never been the brightest nor the most studious child, but there was a natural charisma about him that had finally found a place to shine. Christopher consented to the furthering of Daniel’s acting career only after he was sixteen. A few trips to Los Angeles later, things seemed as if they were going to take off. “He looks quite young,” people would say, nitpicking over Daniel’s boyish good-looks and barely-there growth spurt. “We’re just not sure he’s right.” They never said he lacked talent or determination, simply that he never quite seemed to fit. It wasn’t until he was seventeen that Daniel finally found success with an audition. He was cast as Steamer in Mystic Pizza
, and the film was released shortly after his 18th birthday.
However, it didn’t serve as much of a big break. Daniel was frustrated by his lack of success and enrolled in the Theater program at the University of California, Los Angeles. He waited tables at a Denny’s in the evening and attended auditions when he could, frustrated by his lack of success. After his second year of school, Daniel dropped out of college and started working more, sure that his inability to secure a role had been due to his academic obligations. It took only a few months for him to be proven right. Danny, twenty-one at the time, was cast as Jack Kelly in Newsies
, and from their his career continued to grow.
From there, Daniel was privileged enough to continue working, busily accepting roles and confident enough in himself to turn down those that didn’t interest him. 1997 marked one of the most important years of Daniel’s life. Not only did he and his then-girlfriend welcome their first and only child (an unplanned surprise, as Daniel likes to put it), his turn as Will Hunting earned Daniel both his most influential role and his first Academy Award nomination. It was the beginning of the boom, the start of something big and while Daniel’s relationship eventually floundered, his career certainly did not.
His star continued to rise rapidly until 2003 and the release of Gigli
. Immediately disappointed in his decision to participate in the project, Daniel neglected to attend almost all of the film’s post-production and fell off the grid for more than a few months, disappearing into himself and determined to come back ready for something new. When news of Daniel being cast in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins
surfaced, fans and critics alike were outraged. “He doesn’t have it in him to be a superhero” was the most common form of criticism, sure that while Daniel was a talented dramatic actor, he didn’t have the dedication to carry an action franchise on his shoulders. If anything, Daniel was fueled by the naysayers, determined to show that he could do whatever he pleased. And he did – the franchise was a success and as quickly as he had fallen out of favour, Daniel’s career recovered.
The next few years served as a major time of development, not just for Daniel’s career but also for his public image. He drew attention for his overindulgence, laughs for his willingness to mess with the paparazzi as frequently as possible. All it took was a turn in David O. Russell’s The Fighter
for Daniel to firmly cement himself at the top of the totem pole. His performance as crack-addicted former wrestler Dicky Eklund is cited as his most impressive role to date, and was the first to earn him an Oscar win.
Since his win, Daniel’s reclusive nature has been amplified. He dodges press as much as possible and when forced to interact with them at events, he lies as frequently as possible, insisting that it “keeps them guessing”. Method by nature, Daniel frequently throws himself into roles, and it has had a severe impact on his personal life; he is incapable of holding a long-term relationship and has developeda problem with overindulgence, both with opiates and alcohol. Despite this, Daniel remains heavily involved with both philanthropic causes and the life of his daughter, now seventeen. While he’s keen to keep working, he could take or leave the invaded personal space that is attached to it.
• Daniel has never been particularly close to his family outside of his sister. It consists of his mother, Maria Macdougall-Vanderlaar (70), Devon Ashton (45, NYU professor, nee Vanderlaar), and his daughter, Alexandra Larkin-Vanderlaar (18). His extended family consists of his brother-in-law, David Ashton (60, cardiothoracic surgeon) and his three nephews, Alwyn (19), Christopher (15) and Emmett (12). His father, Christopher Vanderlaar, passed away in 2005.
• A sufferer of an extremely addictive personality, Daniel has an undocumeneted history of substance abuse. He's been successful in keeping it hidden from the public eye, but will privately acknowledge that it's created difficulties in his life. He doesn't consider himself an addict, but knows that many things present problems for him, and he's had more than his share of slip-ups.
• Though he's drifted from it in recent years, Daniel has always considered himself a method actor. He has no qualms with altering his appearance for roles, enjoys developing familiarity with new accents, and enjoys developing his own understanding of a character. He journals from an in-character perspective when preparing for a role, though shares these very infrequently given his enjoyment of playing problematic people.
• Despite being encouraged to take a stage name at the beginning of his career (because his surname sounded "too ethnic"), he has always been professionally known as 'Daniel Vanderlaar'. However, most close friends and industry connections call him Danny.
• Daniel was raised in a staunchly Irish Catholic home, and attended mass on a regular basis. His grandparents were all Irish Catholic, as well, with his maternal grandparents staying settled in Ireland until their passing. Though Daniel will say that he belives in God, he prays and confesses infrequently, and is a far more lapsed believer than he would like to admit.
• Though admittedly not very technologically literate, Daniel is a fan of Twitter and has become well-reputed for one-word responses to people's tweets. Currently, the only people he is following is Kanye West.
• He hasn't ever considered himself a man of many talents, but Daniel maintains several hobbies as a means of keeping himself sharp. He is a fan of crosswords (with a very decided bias towards whatever is printed in the New York Times), sudokus, and builds model airplanes in his spare time. Daniel also gardens, though fairly poorly, at his home in Los Angeles.
• Daniel has managed to cultivate a largely positive public persona, despite his affinity for answering invasive questions in haikus. His least favorite topics are his daughter, Alex, and his romantic life. Up until the leak of his personal information in April of 2015, Daniel had been in only two publicly confirmed relationships, one of them with Alex's mother.