Thewlis, the second of three children, was born David Wheeler in Blackpool, Lancashire, England, to Maureen Thewlis and Alec Raymond Wheeler. Both of his parents were shopkeepers, at his father's shop; that sold toys in the summer and wallpaper and paint in the winter. As a teenager, he first played in a rock band called QED in which he, Cliff Ashcroft and Chris Swift wrote much of their own music and lyrics. QED played at some of the Blackpool Hotels to earn money for equipment and their first recording session at Storm Studios in Blackpool. Later, he played lead guitar with a punk-rock band called Door 66. As a musician he was "doing nicely, doing good" and did not want to be an actor. He only enrolled in the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London because his friends did. He graduated in 1985. He took his stage name after his mother's maiden name. When he went to register with the actors union he originally wanted to use Wheeler but the name already existed so his mum's maiden name was the first that came to mind.
His first acting job was in a play entitled Buddy Holly at the Regal
in Greenwich. Thewlis' first major film role was as the rambling street philosopher Johnny in Naked
(1993; dir. Mike Leigh), for which he was named best actor by the National Society of Film Critics (United States), the London Film Critics Circle, the Evening Standard, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Cannes Film Festival. Despite the dark nature of the film, he has been critically acclaimed for the role and it is seen as one of his best roles. The same year he appeared on television as the sexual predator James Jackson in Prime Suspect 3
, opposite Helen Mirren and Ciaran Hinds.
Through the 1990s, Thewlis appeared in a variety of films, mostly fantasy and period, including Seven Years in Tibet
(1997), opposite Brad Pitt (because of this film, Thewlis is barred from entering China). He was nominated for a British Independent Film Award for Divorcing Jack
He auditioned for the role of Professor Quirrell in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
, but the role was given to Ian Hart. Despite missing out for the first film, in 2004, he was cast as Remus Lupin in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
. Thewlis did not have to audition for the part as he was director Alfonso Cuaron's first choice for the role. He accepted it on advice from Ian Hart, who told him that Lupin was "the best part in the book." He reprised the role in the fifth film in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
, and will appear again in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
As a director, he was nominated for a BAFTA for best short film for Hello, Hello, Hello
(1995); he has also written, directed and starred in the feature Cheeky
(2003). When researching for his role in Kingdom of Heaven
, Thewlis went to the Hospitaller museum near his home, and the first thing he saw was a mannequin wearing the exact same costume that he wore in the film.
In 2001 he began a relationship with actress Anna Friel, who he met on a flight to Cannes. Due to each others filming schedules, their relationship has often been tested, Thewlis commented that "trying to keep a relationship going on the phone is disastrous." Despite this Thewlis has stated that "[Friel] has changed me for the better. I am much more sociable now, more conversational, less withdrawn. It's to do with being happy." Their daughter Gracie was born on 9 July 2005 in London. Thewlis noted that he was "excited" and "not at all scared" by fatherhood, and that he loves children. If he was not an actor he would be a teacher as he believes "the most beautiful sound is a child laughing." During Friel's pregnancy he gave up smoking, began jogging and eating more healthily and lost weight as well as only taking on roles that were over three weeks before Gracie's expected birth date.
I. David is an avid poet! Click here
to read some of his work.
II. He turned down the role of Simon Gruber in Die Hard: With a Vengeance
, which was later given to Jeremy Irons.
III. He was up for the role of Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander
IV. During the filming of The Island of Dr. Moreau
, he fell off a horse and broke his leg.
V. He has signs that say "No Muggles Allowed" and "Quiddich Played Here" in his garden.