James Ivory's A Room with a View follows a young Englishwoman, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham-Carter), who is touring Italy. While in Florence, she meets George Emerson (Julian Sands) and is interested in him, but still considers settling down with Cecil Vyse, played by Day-Lewis, back in England. George comes back into her life and Lucy must decide between him and Cecil — and she chooses George.
Day-Lewis, in early pre-production of the film, actually got to choose which of the two lead men he wanted to play. Ivory asked Day-Lewis which of the two he saw himself as, the charming and alluring George or the respectable yet snobbish Cecil. Day-Lewis told the New Yorker, “I said no one in his right mind would ever admit to seeing himself as Cecil, and I'd rather play him than be him, understand what it is to be that man and thereby avoid the possibility of ever being him.”
Day-Lewis went on to describe the ways in which he saw underneath the character's hard, pompous shell, giving an inside look into how he delved into the role of Cecil. He said, “I knew what he was going through — he couldn't open his mouth without alienating people, that's all. There was a person alive underneath all that who was desperate and anxious and insecure enough to be incredibly arrogant, and in the end he could never make contact, so he was terribly lonely.”