THE DAMIAN DIGEST
A Library Of Excerpts From Articles About Damian Lewis
Each passage, I believe, reveals at least a little something about the man.
FINANCIAL TIMES, 06/17/94:
- As for young Damian Lewis (just a year out of drama school) as Hamlet, everything he does has the audience firmly held. Strikingly equipped with a tide of Tudor red hair, burning blue eyes, heroic bones and good build, this Hamlet works hard to win his authority over the play, but win it he does. He speaks the lines "with good accent and good discretion," and he has both virility and stillness. He is a Hamlet both Romantic (frozen in melancholy, vivid in action) and modern (playing at crude aperies in his "madness," sardonically rude). He manages both to relate freshly to everyone else onstage and to suggest that Hamlet's mind is always at one remove from everyone else around him. Remarkably, he achieves this by working within very narrow confines. His vocal register is seldom more than a minor third, he makes no particular play between piano and forte, he employs no great contrasts of speed during his soliloquies. Yet one attends to him. He has not yet bent the role to his will, has not relaxed within its rigours so that we trust his command of it, is still shifting in his way of addressing the audience -- and yet one attends to him.
LONDON TIMES, 02/11/95:
- "I wasn't aware of my hair until critics started talking about it as part of the performance," says Lewis good-humouredly. "Maybe there's a whole play going on on top of my head."
- He was acting with his siblings at about five, then realised he wanted to do it professionally at 16 when he and school friends set up a company. ... [He was] talent-spotted before he had finished at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
- What's it like as Laertes? "It took quite a time," says Lewis, "to stop seeing Laertes judgmentally from Hamlet's point of view. I drove the director mad."
- "Camera acting uses a very different muscle. I thought it might be oppressive, but I found it focusing and liberating," says Lewis with articulate enthusiasm. "But I certainly don't regard film as where I want to end up. I don't have any great crusade tucked away in my folder, but the importance of theatre lies in the audience's ability to listen and work. Cinema is far more passive."
- "I still sing Elvis Presley songs in the mirror: that's as bad as I'm getting."
PLAYS AND PLAYERS, 04/95:
- Lewis has none of his imperious stage airs in life, but a languid demeanor and charm that they say comes from growing up amongst the rich and famous at Eton, where he was primed for thespian success at an early age. Lewis is the first to admit that he's been "incredibly lucky" but by that he means in doing so well at Guildhall, where "everyone starts on the same footing and if you're good you just hope you get noticed."
- He was good and he got noticed by top agent Pippa Markham, playing the lead in League Of Youth, in his final year. He never had to finish his diploma.
- "I used to think I was immune to critics, but I was wrong. I don't read any of them now because if you can't believe the bad ones how can you believe the good ones? Once when I was playing Romeo's death scene, a man stood up and cheered. I felt like getting up again and saying, 'You bastard, do you know how much time I've put into this?'"
- "I treat acting as an ongoing English Literature exercise, but I'm not happy with the [classical actor] label. Why should a classical actor be distinguished from a stand-up comedian? He must have the same rapport with his audience and his enthusiasm must be just as infectious. Anthony Hopkins has had a great effect on me, but then so has Stan Laurel, while I think Gary Glitter's the greatest showman of all time."
- "Acting is a representation of honesty and truth; you can't get up there and bluff in performance. You have to become that person."
- "I say yes, yes and yes to Broadway. I'm not a career obsessive, but the chance to live in New York at this stage in my life is massive; after all, the success of the actor is contained in the baggage of his personal experiences."
- "I'm not afraid of type casting and what I'd really like to do is play a variety of roles like Daniel Day Lewis. [But] they wouldn't want a pale, red-headed Indian in Last Of The Mohicans for example. I don't think I'll come across any real discrimination. There was one critic who said of my psycho role in Rope that I couldn't hurt a fly. I suspect he was colourist."
- "At the moment I don't have to make financial choices, so I can make artistic ones, which is great, but it won't last. As an actor you are your own businessman."
- "I'd like to stay in England because we have the healthiest theatre in the world and we're envied for it, but we have to keep it strong; underfunding could kill it. Film and TV are passive entertainment -- there's nothing like the theatre to challenge the status quo."
- He bursts into "Well she goes out with other guys," as Run Around Sue comes on the jukebox. He's pretty good, too. "I guess I'm just a frustrated rockstar," he jokes.
- Lewis is already building up a small fan club with a Danish girl who sends him watches and a mysterious sonnet-writer. He is not bothered at all about the possibility of becoming a sex symbol; he simply strokes his eyebrows and says with a Hollywood drawl, "My vanity leaps up instinctively."
(PUBLICATION UNKNOWN AND DATE UNKNOWN), 1999 OR 2000:
- "I don't know why, but I seem constantly to be cast as a soldier. Damian Lewis, rent-a-soldier! The ironic thing about my part in Band Of Brothers is that I would have been a really terrible paratrooper because I hate heights."
HEARTS AND BONES PRESS KIT (BBC), SPRING 2000:
- Damian grew up in London and went to boarding school in Sussex, which is where his love of acting began. "From the age of eight I started acting in school plays and Gilbert and Sullivan musicals," he recalls. "My first role was as a policeman in The Pirates Of Penzance and when I was twelve I played Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream," he says.
- "School was very structured and they were keen to drum into everyone how to behave well in any situation, which is a very British upper class way of thinking. I used to get sick and tired of all the culture at school and rebelled against it, although at boarding school if you are caught having as much as an illicit cigarette you might be asked to leave. The most rebellious things I ever did always involved girls. I used to get caught in girls' dormitory in the middle of the night, which was a caning offence when I was there. I got caned an awful lot for other misdemeaneours like talking after lights out, which the headmaster just wouldn't tolerate. He thought it kept others awake, and tired pupils made the school function less well."
- As a teenager Damian went to Eton, but had decided when it came to leaving, that he wanted to become an actor. "Everyone else was off to Oxford and Cambridge and other places and I had already been in a theatre company with friends and had made up my mind that acting was what I wanted to do. Fortunately, my parents were very supportive and they said they'd help me out if I went to drama school."
- Damian went to Guildhall School of Music and Drama, with Joseph Fiennes and Ewan McGregor included among his contemporaries. Until Hearts And Bones most of his work has been in the theatre, including spells with the Royal Shakespeare Company and appearing in Hamlet with Ralph Fiennes. The role of Mark is Damian's biggest television role to date, although he did star in last year's award-winning BBC drama Warriors, set in Bosnia.
- International fame is likely to follow now as Damian has just started work on Steven Spielberg's £70 million 13-part television series Band Of Brothers, a spin-off from the World War II epic Saving Private Ryan. Damian has landed the coveted lead role of American soldier Richard Winters in the series, which follows the real-life exploits of an elite rifle unit.
- "It's very exciting," he says. "We're going to be filming for eight months and it's real boys and toys stuff. It's being filmed at Hatfield Aerodrome in Hertfordshire, where they filmed Saving Private Ryan. The sets they built there are incredible and include a whole Normandy town which doubles as a Dutch and German town. They've even built a replica of the Rhine to size -- including bridges."
THIS IS LONDON, 05/16/00:
- Hollywood doesn't intimidate him but neither does he relish the prospect of "being sold over there like the newest sports car."
LOS ANGELES TIMES, 08/20/00:
- [Tom] Hanks concedes that Winters was the hardest character in "Band of Brothers" to match with an actor: "The trick was casting this very enigmatic man, of whom there's a substantial amount of mystery involved. You never know where you stand with Winters. But when we heard Damian read, we'd found our guy. Maybe it's his delivery, a kind of 'less is more' thing."
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 09/07/01:
- To prepare for the ordeal, actors underwent their own two-week boot camp before the 10-month production began filming -- supervised by retired Marine Capt. Dale Dye, who also plays regiment commander Col. Robert Sink -- with the men required to live as their characters while enduring 5-mile runs, foxhole digs, guard duty, weapons training and physical conditioning. "Nothing prepared me for being up at 5:30 a.m. with Dale Dye shouting at you as you get to your 80th sit-up," Lewis said. "It was like something out of the movies. I thought I was in Full Metal Jacket." So how did a British actor wind up playing an American soldier fighting German soldiers? "In casting, especially in film, they cast for qualities," said Lewis, who spent three months auditioning for the role. "It's that abstract quality they see in people that corresponds to what they see in the character. Accents are secondary ... (but) getting to the soul of this guy was like climbing Mount Everest." ... Strayer also takes issue with some of the soul searching in which characters seem to indulge -- particularly scenes in episode five where Winters remembers killing a young German soldier while leading an assault on an enemy stronghold. "I won't say you get used to (the killing), but you do become inured to it," said Strayer, who said he never realized how evil Hitler was until he helped liberate a concentration camp at Landsberg, Germany. "I guess when I was involved with it, I was scared. But I was so damn busy, I didn't know I was scared." ... Lewis sees the situation a little differently. "What (the veterans) might say, is "We're not heroes ... We're ordinary men who did extraordinary things,'" Lewis said. "But having studied it and acted it, I'm here to tell you that people make choices in situations like that. And people (in Easy Company) made heroic choices." ... Lewis hopes Band of Brothers helps bridge that gap, outlining World War II's horrors and highlights in a way that makes the experience both profound and personal. "It's only natural to have so many retrospectives on the last great war of the century," he said. "The big (question) is: Will Band of Brothers be one too many or just enough? I guess we'll all find out soon enough."
USA TODAY, 09/13/01:
- As the seemingly stoic Winters, Lewis accomplishes one of an actor's hardest tasks: He makes virtue seem appealing, and even sexy -- and in case you're wondering, you'd never guess he isn't American.
TIME OUT, 09/19/01:
- [He is] articulate, funny and, unusually for a young actor, quite outspoken.
THE TIMES, 09/29/01:
- On the buzz around him in conjunction with Band of Brothers: "It's come at a good time in my life. I'm 30 and not 23 so I feel sanguine about it, and to be honest I feel quite ready for it. I know that may sound cocksure, but I've done quite a lot now in acting and in life so the glitz and glamour of LA isn't blinding and it isn't overwhelming. It's exciting but I feel I'm kind of in control of it, should it happen. And frankly, bring it on."
RADIO TIMES, 09/29/01:
- Dye confesses that he "was worried that Steven and Tom cast an Englishman in the lead role. Then I met him. He's an impactful young man. We've seen loudmouths before, but he's in a Gary Cooper mould. I had trouble catching him out. He was terrific in training, busted his butt. I admire his stamina. He just goes. He's like a wind-up toy ... there's something in that little ginger shit's eyes."
- Over a three-hour lunch in London a couple of weeks after the [Normandy] premiere, Lewis reveals himself to be an engaging 29-year-old. Full of lively anecdotes about the production, he makes for sparkling company. He is far removed from the sometimes sombre and taciturn man we see in Band of Brothers -- which only goes to emphasize what a consummate actor he is.
- "I concentrated on being watchful and listening. That's what makes Robert De Niro so fascinating as an actor. You really feel he is listening to the other actor. It was hard because in real life I'm bad at listening -- I'm much better at talking! Of course, there were times as Winters when I was dying to burst out. I was thinking, 'I need histrionics here -- can I tap dance?' But the skill comes in knowing when the tap dance is needed, and with Winters there was no tap dance."
THE GUARDIAN, 09/30/01:
- Five things you need to know about Damian Lewis: (1) His favourite actor is Robert de Niro. (2) The first time he met Spielberg he had a terrible hangover. (3) He objects to theatrical types calling him darling or sweetheart. (4) He spent a week in Paris with the war veteran whose part he plays in Band of Brothers. (5) He thinks Band of Brothers will be seen as one of "the most significant undertakings of the decade."
SUNDAY TIMES, 09/30/01:
- "There's nothing more boring than an incredibly successful film actor going: 'Oh God, I can't wait to get back to the theatre.' Do they go back? Do they fuck. They're earning too much money. But I really do want to go back. It's just squeezing it all in."
- On staying at Helena Bonham Carter's home in LA around the time of the Golden Globes: "She was renting Anthony Andrews's house in the Hollywood Hills, with a pool looking over LA, and I just lived there for a month on my own -- hot tub, steam room, big shag pad," he chuckles. "The sort of place you know was designed for shagging in: That was a lot of fun. I certainly did the LA lifestyle in that respect."
- "So much crap is made in movies. I'd much rather be doing quality television if the films we're making aren't very good. But I'd love to work in America because I'm a megalomaniac. I want to be able to do television here, theatre here, film there." The new Steve McQueen? "I'm the Ginger ninja," he declares. Pause. "Actually, I'm slightly embarrassed I've just said that."
ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10/04/01:
- As a result of a "silent look" from Lewis that Hanks called "unequivocally evocative," the series decided not to rely on voice-overs from Winters. "It wasn't better than what (Damian) was doing with his face," he said.
ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10/05/01:
- Scott Grimes, from television's "Party of Five," was among the American actors whose initial skepticism [over the casting of a British actor as Winters in Band of Brothers] was allayed. Playing an Oregonian infantryman named Don Malarkey, Grimes admitted that, "I was like, this is an American accent, we should have American guys do it. I was the hardest to win over." Grimes ended up impressed: "Damian is terrific, man. Sometimes, he's got to talk us into (the fact that) he's British. It's not just about the accent; it's about an American way of holding yourself -- totally no frills. (Damian) is going to be a big star, I hope."
DAILY TELEGRAPH, 10/05/01:
- "I was coerced into having a publicist, but I don't I suppose is what I'm doing now." Though not averse to publicity, he does not seem hungry for it. "At first I was fascinated by how I looked in photographs, but publicity soon becomes just a necessary tool."
- It doesn't seem fair to tout him -- and some have -- as the new Hugh Grant. Despite an Eton education, there is little foppishness about him. "I used to keep my school very quiet because I thought it was damaging," he says, in an accent that sounds studiedly rough around the edges. "I think you can't be really posh and be an interesting actor. I'm a bit of posh rough. At school I didn't play the beautiful raven-tressed characters. I was a redhead so I played the comedy parts. I've never been asked to play good-looking toff lovers." Lewis pauses, his hand freezing en route for his coffee. "Come to think of it," he says, "why not?"
- Such is the volume of his fan mail that he says he now replies only to letters that come with a stamped addressed envelope.
- I ask him whether he could ever see himself as a fully fledged Hollywood star: the house in Bel Air, the personal attorney, the lot. Lewis pauses for a moment, contemplating his semi-peeled banana. "The short answer," he says, "is yes."
- Lewis joked that when he was in character as Dick Winters, he felt that "anything was possible," but that when he reverted back to being Damian Lewis, he was "crying in the corner of the dormitory."
DAILY MAIL, 10/06/01:
- "DAY 8: We move into our week of jump training today. There's one major problem. I'm scared of heights." ... "DAY 9: We visit RAF Brize Norton for a day in jumping school. Today, I'm going to jump off a 60 ft tower screaming from the top of my lungs 'One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand.' After this, you're supposed to open your chute. Looking up, the platform doesn't seem so high. Looking down, I want to cry. I can't hold on to anything because I can't get any grip. My palms are sweating too heavily. A jump trainer edges me out. I look straight ahead at the horizon and leap into the void. I land about five seconds later. I've done it. Parachuting becomes addictive. Apparently."
DAILY TELEGRAPH, 10/08/01:
- Lewis's success in the multi-million pound mini-series [Band of Brothers], which began on BBC2 last Friday, is observed with an amused eye by his comrades in another field -- the Old Etonian Football Club. "You'd never know what Damian does from speaking to him," says one. "Obviously he can only play for us when he's not filming, but he's a very useful player -- a midfield general who gets from box to box and scores goals."
- His excitement over the premiere has been put into perspective by a personal tragedy. While on holiday in India in February, his father Watcyn and mother Charlotte were in a car crash and his mum was killed. "My Dad had to pull Mum from the car. So that's what this year has been about. I've got a sister and two brothers and we've all tried to be strong. Mum was a beautiful, gorgeous woman and a very loving and giving mother, and we all miss her terribly. She was very proud of what I was doing and I'm just sad she's not around to see it all now. She came up on set when we were filming and she was tickled pink by the whole thing, although she didn't really want me to go off to Hollywood. She was keener for me to do work in the theatre." It was Charlotte who encouraged him to act. "She said to me: 'Look, don't go to university and chase girls, play sport and do no work and come out with a nothing degree. Go to drama school, and we'll support you if you get in.'"
- Acting apart, he didn't enjoy [boarding] school. "They were keen to drum into everyone how to behave well in any situation, which is a very British upper-class way of thinking. I used to get sick and tired of it. The most rebellious things I did always involved girls. I often used to get caught in the girls' dormitory in the middle of the night. I got caned an awful lot for other things, too, like talking after lights out."
- It was a cold winters night in London when Damian Lewis crashed, face-first through a car's windshield and almost died. That evening, in 1998, the actor had been buzzing along the chilly, dark streets on his Honda VFR 750 motorcycle, heading home from the Royal Shakespeare Company's Barbican Theatre, where he was playing Don John the Bastard in Much Ado About Nothing. Suddenly, a car veered into Lewis's path. His bike rammed the car's front bumper, and he flew over the handlebars; Lewis broke the car's windshield with his chin. "Thank God I had a full-face helmet on. If I hadn't, I'm not sure I'd be here now. Or at least my acting career would be very different." Lewis survived, but he lay unconscious for five minutes and woke up with a serious concussion in his brain's frontal lobe, the region that controls emotions. For the next three months, the normally cheerful Lewis became "irascible and irrational," he recalls. "I would get into arguments with people at the video store for no reason. Or I'd suddenly feel like crying." At first, he wasn't able to do much more than sit at home and do jigsaw puzzles. But he began to get restless, and just three weeks after the crash, he rejoined the cast of Much Ado. On his first night back Lewis abruptly sat down onstage in the middle of a soliloquy. "I gave the rest of my speech from there," he says. "If I hadn't sat down, I would have keeled over. I probably wasn't ready to go back."
- Lewis has a way of pushing himself to the limit, even in good times.
- "They were looking for someone who has a moral uprightness without being uptight," says Brothers costar Ron Livingston. "Damian has that. There's something anachronistic about him. Like Henry Fonda."
- On Abbey Road: "I used to take my shoes off to cross the street so I'd look like Paul [McCartney] on the record."
- At Ashdown House School, ... Lewis studied Latin and ancient Greek and stared in the annual Gilbert and Sullivan production. He also played sports and, after graduating from Ashdown, went on to play varsity soccer, cricket, golf and tennis at Eton, England's most prestigious preparatory high school. "I was bordering on what you Americans would call a jock."
- Just months after filming [Band of Brothers] finished, his 63-year-old mother Charlotte died in a car crash while on holiday in India.
- Then Damian was given the lead in ITV's remake of The Forsyte Saga. But on the first day of filming, he was rushed to hospital with appendicitis, which put him out of work for two weeks.
- "I haven't had a lot of luck this year. It was horrible when Mum died. It was on Valentine's Day and I was in LA at the time. My sister rang and I flew back immediately. When I got appendicitis, I began to think I was fated, that maybe The Forsyte Saga wasn't meant to be and it was all a bad omen." With the support of his family -- dad Watcyn and his three siblings -- Damian has learned to cope with his mother's death. A seat in London's Royal Court Theatre, where his mum used to work, has been dedicated to her memory and, with an optimistic laugh, Damian adds that the producers of The Forsyte Saga decided not to recast his part.
- There was a time when he thought he'd never get a job on the small screen. "I was out of work for months and feeling really down. I had a glut of really good TV auditions, but didn't get anything. I thought I was just meant to be a big, poncy stage actor. I had a girlfriend in New York and I was living in south London, being a very jealous boyfriend and reading The End Of The Affair on a bench in Clapham Common in howling gales and rain. I was also listening to a lot of Radiohead, which doesn't help. God, I was so self-pitying." Then along came ... Warriors ...
- "I was living with my younger brother, who's just got married, and I've had to move out."
DISH MAGAZINE, 10/01:
- He stands out. Not just because he plays Major Richard Winters, the leader of Easy Company, who is a significant presence in each episode of Band of Brothers. Damian Lewis grabs your attention even when he says nothing -- the mark of an actor who knows that even when there are no words for you to say on the page, your character can still leave his mark.
- The British actor moved through an intense three-month audition process to win the pivotal role of Dick Winters. "Anyone [in England] who was under 35 and still had both legs was being seen," he says. Lewis submitted a tape, but didn't hear anything for a month, so when he got the call "to read for the main guy," he admits he was stunned. He was asked if he would like to fly to LA to meet Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. "Then the Hollywood machine took over," Lewis says with a laugh. "I'm a Londoner so I have to refer to things like the Hollywood machine. It's the epitome of things that work slickly. "Two days later, Lewis was in California, reading for the part of Winters, opposite Hanks, who read all the other parts. "I can say I acted with Tom Hanks, so that was quite nice." Since he didn't expect to meet Spielberg at all on this trip, Lewis "celebrated" that night, not getting to sleep until the wee hours. No sooner did he crash than he got a call that the famous director did, indeed, want to see him. "I had about three showers, and drank a gallon of coffee, and I went to see Steven." Lewis recalls that Spielberg talked about his son's soccer match, and when Hanks joined them, they talked about Christmas tree shopping. The two Hollywood titans left the room, and Tony To, the executive producer, returned to say, "Hey Damian, how'd you like to go to boot camp in March?" Ten days of boot camp, to be exact. I looked a little like a rice pudding before," Lewis says, "and afterwards, like a stick of celery, the love handles went, the flabby arms went." The actor, who says his knowledge of WWII before Band of Brothers was "the ten greatest hits," soon got a taste of what these soldiers went through to prepare for battle. He remembers one day hanging in under the watchful eye of Captain Dale Dye, doing 70 pushups, and then felt his arms go to Jell-O. "I'm watching you, Winters," Dye bellowed, "You better not give up on me, Winters." Lewis says it took him as long to get to the requisite 80 pushups as it had taken him to do the first 70. I felt like I was in 'Full Metal Jacket,'" he adds ruefully.
- "I think one of the most interesting things to watch an actor do on screen is to watch them listen. Robert DeNiro has that quality. You always feel like he's listening, or he's going to kill you."
BBC, FALL 2001 (exact date unknown):
- Tom Hanks reveals that he knew instantly Lewis was the right man for the part. He says, "We were looking for an enigmatic leader, a guy you can't explain, but who explains himself by his mere presence. We wanted someone with a certain air about him that comes across even before he opens his mouth. Lewis had that without question, as soon as he sat down we knew."
THE TIMES, 11/10/01:
- Ironic confession: "Actually I would have been a really terrible paratrooper because I hate heights"
NEW WOMAN, 11/01:
- At the beginning of a relationship, do you aim to stay the course, or trip over your laces at the first bend? "Honest open relationships are the only way forward for men in the Nineties, so I stay the course. That said, I trip at every hurdle, stagger to the next, bundle myself over that and maybe have a swift ale on the way."
- What was your earliest hurdle? "Mine was when I was little and on holiday in America. I realized after we'd left that I would never ride my lovely little white horse, Smokey, again. I wept."
- What's the dirtiest trick you've ever pulled on a woman? "Faked an orgasm." "Okay, how about giving your new girlfriend the presents the previous one gave you back when you split up?"
- Ever had to tread carefully through a situation? "Telling my brother that I'd accidentally flushed his hamster down the loo. We had such a bad fight."
- What's the most heroic thing you've done for a woman? "I was walking along the beach in Spain with a girlfriend when she twisted her ankle. So I carried her through the sand dunes to the car park. It was a half-hour walk, She was almost too heavy, but that says more about my strength than her weight."
- Ever walked a tightrope between two women? "Not without a safety net. Only as a calculated risk, never a blind gamble."
- Ever been wounded by a woman? "I've had someone throw things at me. She was so good she could have been a pitcher for the New York Yankees. I was only just quick enough to get out of the way."
- What situations do you bolt from? "Usually ones involving arguments in the kitchen. There's always a fall-out over the fact I like to put sultanas in my shepherd's pie."
- On the Band of Brothers jump scene: "I couldn't do a jump because of the insurance! But they did hang me upon this crane 150 feet up to make it look as if I was leaping out of a plane. I'm not so good with heights, I get sweaty palms and dizzy, and there I was with this panoramic view of the Home Counties. All I could hear was the wind whistling in my ears."
- On meeting Tom Hanks: "I went into the room and he said: 'Damian thanks for coming. I hope you're not tired after all that flying.' I stuck my arms out and said: 'Well it was a long way,' and started flapping them up and down. The whole room just went silent. Tom just looked at me and said: 'OK, OK. Funny guy.' So I wanted to leave."
- "British women are just the best." ... Moments later, he ruminates about getting to grips with his first pair of fake breasts in LA. "I almost let out a yelp. I thought, 'These are like footballs!'"
- "Dye said to me on the first morning, 'Don't give up on me. Your ass is mine. Get used to it, horse cock.' I'd never been called horse cock before. Well, only by a few girlfriends."
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/23/01:
- Briton Damian Lewis was particularly compelling as American Capt. Dick Winters, an average Joe whose composure under fire made him a born soldier.
DAILY EXPRESS, 2001:
- Meeting Lewis, it's good to see that his taste of working with the cream of the acting industry hasn't gone to his head. It's not that he's not ambitious -- he is -- but he remains down-to-earth while at the same time loving all the adulation being heaped on him. ... Refreshingly, he doesn't mind admitting it's the kind of attention he's dreamed about since he was a kid. "I've done Wogan in the mirror late at night when I can't get to sleep."
- Lewis says he was bitten by the acting bug when he was just eight. At 16, and still at school -- Eton, where he regularly took part in Gilbert & Sullivan productions -- he decided he'd act for a living.
- His mother Charlotte, who sadly died in a car crash in February, worked at the Royal Court, and his father Watcyn took the children to the theatre when they were young. "The most exciting feeling was when the house lights went down and there's the last rustling of crisp packets. It was magical."
- Clinching this role of Winters took three auditions and four screen tests in London -- and then a nail-biting trip to LA to meet Hanks and Spielberg in December 1999. "I made a really crap remark as I walked in. Tom went, 'Gee Damian, thanks for flying all the way from London, you must be tired ...' And I said, 'Yeah, my shoulders are really stiff' and there was this deathly hush! I thought, 'Oh, I've blown it!' Tom just said, 'OK, sit down, let's do the scene.' Afterwards, the producer said, 'Damian, great work, you've got nothing to worry about,' so then I went out drinking with a mate until 5 am." Just three hours later, a hungover Lewis got a phone call from Spielberg's office asking him to meet the man himself at noon. "I had four showers and I was chucking coffee down, then I went in and met Steven and Tom. We just had a chat. Steven said his kid had a soccer match and we just talked about football. And Tom was going, 'My wife is fed up 'cos I'm supposed to be getting Christmas trees,' so it was all really normal. Then I was left with another of the producers, called Tony To, and one other guy that looked exactly like the pictures of Winters I'd seen. I thought, 'Oh damn, he's got it but it's been a great weekend.'" Minutes later, Lewis was put out of his misery when Tony said: "So Damian, how'd you like to go to boot camp in March?" "I jumped up and kissed him and everyone in the room."
- Everything you do is a stepping stone to something bigger, but you have to be careful because if all you're worried about is stepping stones you never stuck around to enjoy the moment. You see people who are in a hurry to get somewhere and they are just not having a good time. I used to be like that, and it's a killer. You have to really enjoy this, and not think, 'I wonder what this will lead to' too much, which inevitably you do, lying awake at night and staring at the ceiling."
EXPRESS, WINTER/SPRING 2002:
- Carrot-topped Band of Brothers star Damian Lewis has relinquished his chance to play super-smooth spy James Bond. Damian, 31, shortly to be seen as the cold, calculating Soames in the ITV remake of the Forsyte Saga, has admitted he pulled out of the running to play 007... and the opportunity of being the first Ginger Bond. "I had heard they were keen on me," Damian divulges. "I did an interview and screen test and they were still keen. But I had to sign an option deal before the final screen test, which means they own you until they have decided who they want for the part. You have to forgo any other parts that come your way, even though they might not pick you for the role. It was a gamble, so I pulled out." He adds: "I grew up with Bond but I wasn't sure it would be as exciting as it looks on screen. Maybe I just want to be Bond in real life." Pierce Brosnan will be relieved. He is currently filming his fourth Bond flick, Die Another Day -- the last he is contracted to do -- but he has let it be known that he wants to do another.
- The middle-aged Italian waitress clearly does not recognise the actor she is shouting at or, if she does, she has had enough experience at being a sour faced waitress not to show it. This is the second time she has asked Damian Lewis to choose what he wants for lunch and it is the second time he has asked for a few more minutes. "Look," she says with a fearsome shrug, arms spread wide, "We are busy. You don't order now, then the kitchen, it become busy. You wait too long for your food. You get cross." There is a convincing logic here: the small, smoky cafe in London's St. James's is indeed already crammed with people. I assume Lewis will cave in immediately and just pick something at random, because it is exactly what I want to do. This woman scares me. But then Lewis has a head start on me. He knows how to play a man dealing calmly with fear. In Band of Brothers, the TV war extravaganza produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, he played an American soldier constantly facing up to fear with a quiet certainty. As if slipping into character, he raises his hands in a sign of mock surrender and, keeping his voice low, his eyes fixed on hers, says simply, "It's not a problem. Just give us another minute and we'll be right with you." She retreats and he breaks into a broad grin. "Wasn't that great?" He spreads his arms wide, shoulders up, in tribute to our waitress. "Looook!!!" he says, with just the hint of an Italian accent. "You want to eat? You order now!"
- He says he knows what fame means and he thinks he can handle it. The key, he says, is to carry on doing good work; to follow each good performance with another one. Simple as that. "There are ways of avoiding becoming tabloid fodder and therefore giving people license to pry into your private life. And there's a distinction between being an actor and being a celebrity. You may become a celebrity through acting, but you don't need to do so. For example you don't need to appear in Hello! or OK! magazines, both of which have asked me to do it. I mean, what it must feel like to be Brad Pitt with all that interest in you?" I suggest it's inevitable that people will pour over every detail of your life once you start appearing in huge, multi-million dollar films. He shakes his head. "But Harrison Ford has managed to avoid it. It's a lifestyle choice."
- "A cricket ball broke my nose when I was a kid so I couldn't breath through it. Before I had it operated on I used to stand on stage with my mouth slightly open. Perhaps it made me look a little gormless. Anyway, the drama critic in The Financial Times wrote about me having this strange little mouth."
- "He was always the person most likely to make it," [actor Rashdan] Stone [from RSC] says. "He was someone who would make the most of a break. He always had his eyes open. He was primed and ready. But he's also very easy going, one of the guys."
- "Damian's full of beans, [says Emma Fielding, costar of School for Wives at the Almeida Theatre]. "He's classically trained, but what he's also got is this Celtic thing going on. It's not just all neck up. He uses his body. But what was really unusual about him was his dynamism. And he's bright. You don't normally get all of that in one package."
- "[Winters] has a natural economy with words and emotions." This, he says, led him back to the very classic on-screen acting skills of the Steve McQueens and Gary Coopers, "people who achieved a lot by doing a little. If you set up an intensity and a stillness to someone you only have to show a flicker of a smile and it will show volumes." It is also, he says, about listening. He sites his onscreen hero, Robert De Niro. "He's brilliant at it. It's his listening which gives him his mercurial quality. It shows a certain humility." It's clear this is the stuff, the mechanics of building character, that gets him going. He agrees. "There's this preconception which irks me that there must be a show-off in one who acts, but the reason people start acting is because of the love of theatre. The reason you want to be at drama school is not 'tits and teeth.' It's because you want to tell stories. You have to decide whether you want to write the story, direct the story or act it. I want to act it. For me the rehearsal period is the part I most enjoy. It's the creating of the story." It is, he says, about the choices you make as you create the role. "That's what differentiates good actors from bad actors. The quality of the choices they make." Are you a good actor? He hesitates, clearly looking for an answer that he hopes won't make him sound like a total arse. "I don't know. I do know I could be better."
- In between all this he's trying to do the most difficult thing when the work is pouring in: have a life. He's planning to buy an electronic keyboard so he can practice his piano skills while hanging out in his Winnebago in the down time between shots. He still plays football to keep fit in a team called the Ladbroke Rovers -- "essentially just a bunch of west-London types."
USA WEEKEND, 03/10/02:
- You've said you'd much rather do quality TV than big films that aren't very good. Was that your take on Black Hawk Down? "No, not at all. I would rather do films, given the choice, over TV. There's such a hunger in young actors to do movies, but actually some of the best quality writing is in TV. It's just not as high-profile or glamourous. All the glitz and the glamour is fun in the film industry. I want all of that. I want to do big screen. But I don't have a child or a family to support right now, so I can afford to choose quality TV [and not get paid as much]. Maybe when I have three kids, maybe then I'd take work I'd be less proud to do. But I haven't encountered that yet. I'm lucky."
- Producing, directing and writing. Any aspirations there? "I've always thought I'd move on to one of those things from acting. I've always loved acting and I think I am in every way an actor. Actors have something instinctive in them that makes them act. Anyway, I have aspirations to do these things but they're not clearly in focus yet. I do think I have ambitions to direct or produce, but I just know I'm not ready to do that. I've thought about it a lot though. I think I surprise people when I stick around on the set. Most actors go back to their trailers, but I like to be out there, a part of the process, even on night shoots. I like to see the decisions directors make and hear why. I feel more a part of the process."
- How does it feel to be known as Hollywood's "next big thing" ? Does the pressure make you nervous? "Thank God I haven't read too many of those or else it would make me nervous. 'The next big thing' is only exciting while your the next big. I'll be the next big thing for a small window for the next six months, and it's very flattering, but you've got to try and remain the next big thing. you've got to think of how much you want it. What level of stardom do you want -- what kind of a life you want to lead? I don't want to be so famous that I have people taking photographs of me with my girlfriend or [future] wife on holiday. I don't want people with long lenses hiding in the bushes. I don't want that kind of scrutiny. Take Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. How do they cope with their lives? I've met Brad and he's one of the most normal guys I know. I want to do well in my career, but how do you get to the top without compromising your private life? It's tough, but I think you can do it. Look at Harrison Ford."
- Who did you grow up admiring? "I've never been one who has heroes -- I'm too egocentric for that maybe, I don't know? -- oh, except for Elvis. I used to dress up like him and look in the mirror. I used to spend hours coiffing my hair with the blow-dryer and wax. Then I'd play this double LP at home and look into the mirror for hours."
- Do you have any pets? "I grew up with dogs, but I have no pets now."
- What's your biggest weakness? Are you a glutton for something? "Oatmeal raisin cookies and ice cream. I have a sweet tooth. Otherwise, emotional complexities."
- What is your biggest pet peeve? "Selfishness in people."
- Do you have any regrets in life thus far? "Yeah, that my mother died."
- If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be? "Jesus. He's got a lot of explaining to do and I'd like to hear it. Other than him, I'd say Osama bin Laden. I'd like him to come and give me some tips on how to decorate my house."
- How do you like to spend your down time? What are a few of your favorite pastimes? "My hobby at the moment is my laptop because I'm so backward in all things having to do with computers. I'm teaching myself how to type and use e-mail. I'm finding it very comforting and fun to e-mail all of my friends in London when I'm away, but it takes me an hour to write a letter. I also play the piano. I taught myself how to play."
- And there is Lewis as Soames, the life and soul of the party off screen, checking to see if shooting is on schedule so that he can get off up the road in his new sports car to Anfield to see his beloved Liverpool play Barcelona, but straight and unbending on it.
- But there's one recent project we didn't see him in, despite it being a who's who of British actors -- Band of Brothers. "I was doing Hornblower at the time and I heard that Damian Lewis, who's a mate of mine since Warriors, had got the lead. If I'd been available and heard about it I'd have gone for it. Damian was amazing. He's out in Hollywood now doing a movie with Morgan Freeman."
- I sought advice from a little bird who worked with you and he suggested I ask you this: How would you describe your unorthodox table-tennis style? [Hysterical laughter for about three minutes, punctuated by much coughing and sputtering] "Where did you get that from?" Just a friend of mine who played one of your merry band. "It's true, I'm afraid. There was a table on the set that we used to play on whenever we weren't shooting. And I have to say that it was probably Rick Warden and myself who were best. [With mock arrogance] Though I'm pretty sure only I stayed unbeaten." What about the unorthodox style? "Well, it's in the backhand. I sometimes do this karate thing when I play a backhand shot, like this ... [Stands up and performs a Cato-esque karate chop with accompanying sound effects]. It's extremely effective. I've been thinking of joining a table-tennis club, actually, but I can't possibly do that seriously, can I?"
NOW MAGAZINE, SPRING 2002:
- "Damian Lewis plays Soames, who commits the rape. Damian is very charismatic so we hope he'll be able to persuade people to understand what motivates his character." -- Gillian Kearney
BIRMINGHAM POST, 04/01/02:
- The 31-year-old actor was so keen to play the cold and manipulative Forsyte that he turned down offers from Hollywood so that he could star in the drama. "They just weren't right," he says. "There's so much pressure to get on and be in films in this business. They're great fun but you've still got to keep doing the best material that comes your way. ... I thought it was going to be one of those big TV moments which I couldn't afford to miss. I also had this feeling of wanting to pit my wits against great actors of yesteryear. The show was a huge success the first time around and I thought 'Oh they want me to do it'. It fluffs your feathers a bit."
- But his part in The Forsyte Saga hardly got off to a flying start. "On the first day of filming I got appendicitis and it screwed the whole thing up. They had to reschedule everything. So when I came back it was all pretty fraught. But I just felt that it was going to turn out to be very good. You just get a feeling when you are making something."
- "Hollywood has become one of the places I can work but I think it's no different from working in this country. It's just that there is where all the money is. I could go there, make lots of money and just appear in rubbish. It is more difficult going there and making good things."
- And Lewis claims that he turned down the chance of playing this country's most famous secret agent -- 007 James Bond. "I had heard they were very keen on me," he says. "I did an interview and screen test and they were still keen. "But I had to sign something called an option deal where you sign something before the final screen test which means they own you until they have decided who they want for the part. You have to forego any other parts which come your way, even though they might not pick you for the role. It was a gamble. So I pulled out. I grew up with Bond. But I wasn't sure it would be as exciting as it looks on screen. Maybe I just want to be Bond in real life." he laughs.
EVENING STANDARD, 04/04/02:
- "My mum was a beautiful, gorgeous woman, a very loving and giving mother, and we all miss her terribly. That she died when she did still seems so shocking and cruel to me. The temptation is to throw yourself into your work -- to try to lose yourself in it. Work can be a kind of therapy and escape from yourself. But you have to give yourself time to sit and think about these things, time to reflect on them and to let them affect you. Otherwise it will hurt you much more later. From that point of view, running around playing other people probably isn't that healthy. So it's also good to take a break, which I did, and let it all wash over you."
ULSTER TV QUICK, 04/06/02:
- "I think it's important to be 'the next big thing' for as long as possible so that people are still talking about you. It seems that as soon as you actually become the big thing people start talking about someone else."
- This is one actor who loathes the thought of being part of today's celebrity cult. "I don't think that will happen because of the sort of projects that I choose to be involved with," he says, although Damian freely admits that in the future his choice of roles could be influenced by commercial reasons, as well. "Something that pays for the new shower, for example," he smirks.
- "I try to avoid conversations about red hair, but I am now about to have one. I hadn't realised the effect it had until I came out of the theater on Broadway where I was playing, and these two Americans said, 'God look at his hair! Red hair in Hamlet doesn't go.'"
- "I felt like a 12-year-old until I was 28. Then 30 came and I thought 'Now I feel like a man, and that's good.' I realised that all those pretensions you have when you're 19 are about trying to be 30. I don't have to pretend anymore."
- "My mother had the most loving, giving and generous spirit, and my dad does as well. As parents they were great. Really strict and quick to slam down any ego crap. But they never left us in any doubt of how much we were loved."
- "I want to control my own career so I can travel between America and Britain. I suppose it is about wanting a little bit of celebrity, but not too much of all that sort of stuff. As soon as you become a 'celebrity' you miss out on certain roles, because you are only cast in 'fashionable' projects and that is what I want to avoid, I still want to be asked to do the serious stuff. I am ambitious, I would like more than just an English career, I want an international career if I can have it."
BBC NEWS, 04/07/02:
- All are extremely good [in The Forsyte Saga] and the supporting cast is peopled with fine actors such as Barbara Flynn and Amanda Root. But your eyes zoom straight to Lewis, formerly of Band of Brothers, Hearts and Bones and Warriors. Funnily, Lewis does very little indeed. One scene has him manipulating events to his way of thinking without actually saying a word. But there is a smouldering power to him and you correctly fear for anyone who tries to confront him.
- On reading glowing reviews and predictions of being the "next big thing": "It gives me a warm, tingly feeling when I read them, but I know how I have felt when I've read those 'next big thing' articles about other people. I've always thought, 'so who is it this time? What have they got to say?' I'm wary of moving into that role. I'm a bit of a snob about celebrity. The trappings are fantastic, but I think the cult of celebrity is something to be avoided because it's short-lived and I'd like to be employed as an actor for a very long time."
- "I think it's part of an actor's vanity to enjoy being pitted against great productions of the past. There's something satisfying in the challenge of a remake. I'm nothing like Eric Porter and this will be nothing like the original series. TV has moved on in such a huge way since the Sixties. The fat that it was such a huge success first time round is a frisson."
- When we meet after filming [The Forsyte Saga] he is warm, urbane and amusing. He tucks into a huge portion of jam roly-poly from the catering van while Kylie Minogue blasts from his stereo. "I think I understand those stiff-upper-lip characters," he admits. "I went to boarding school and there is this thing that boys don't cry. You grin and bear it and have cold showers and wear corduroy shorts in the middle of January. There's a natural military aspect to it. It's very ordered and order is something very important to Soames."
- Lewis, 30, grew up in a wealthy London family. When he was eight he went away to prep school. "It was a way of thinking that was ingrained in our family, and it wasn't the Dickensian set-up that people imagine those schools to be. It was like something from Enid Blyton or Swallows And Amazons. They were halcyon days."
- It was then that Damian discovered his love of the stage. He took part in school plays and, at 16, wanted a career as an actor. "I enjoyed school, but I felt most alive when I was on stage. During school holidays, our family treats were always to go out to the theatre in the West End. Dad would have loved to have been a song-and-dance man."
- At 18, he announced he did not want to go to university and began work he hated fitting car alarms in south London. He quit to backpack around Africa before taking up a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He graduated in 1993 and soon became one of the most sought-after actors on the London stage.
- "I'd like to just be really cool, but I think there's an old-fashionedness to most of the parts I've played. Some of the men have been heroes, others have been anti-heroes, but they've generally all had a sense of order about them." So does he think he has a certain look which makes him a natural for these parts? "I've been incredibly lucky, but I think I do have a look, which I'm hoping is a leading man look with a sort of character angle to it," he laughs.
- His versatility is undisputed. His Pennsylvanian accent in Band Of Brothers was impeccable and during our interview he effortlessly flips from a Ghanaian accent to Welsh to Yorkshire, to a convincing impression of Michael Caine. "Accents are about rhythm. I have a musical ear and I pick up on these things."
- He flew out to Canada in January for Dreamcatcher and is thrilled by the role, but he misses his new house in north London and his girlfriend, a Channel 4 news producer. He is aware that by the time he returns to Britain his face will be recognised everywhere. Yet he almost turned down Soames. There was the possibility of roles in two American films and he agonised for three weeks. "I eventually realised that it was actually better to do good TV than a film just for the sake of it. There are so many bad movies which bomb, so why not go and do a big TV series which is on screens for weeks and is full of kudos and prestige and has lots of exposure?"
RADIO TIMES, 04/13/02:
- "No one is ambivalent towards a redhead. They like it or don't. Tom Hanks joked I could become the world's first red-headed film star, which is now my ambition. There's a distinction between acting and being a star, though. Tom Cruise is a classic example. He can act well enough to be enjoyable -- he wouldn't survive if he was bad -- but his innate charisma and pizzazz prevail. My vanity is that I act rather than turning up, being lazy and doing 'Damian Lewis, star' -- but of course you see aspects of me in every part I do."
- "I've been pretentious. Self-preservation has taught me to moderate what I say. I communicate my passion in a way that takes me on the express train to Pseuds Corner in Private Eye. Acting indulges me. It's my mistress. It's with me in the morning and puts me to bed at night."
- "I'm perhaps an anomaly as an actor in that I do quite like myself. I think I'm disciplined enough to immerse myself in roles. I hope Soames will seem radically different to Richard Winters and Winters was different to my part in Hearts and Bones."
- "I looked forward to becoming 30 because I assumed, from the age of 12, that I'd be married when I was 29. I'm not, but I'll do it at some point. I'm sold on the idea of family. A relationship stagnates if you're away from the person you love for long periods. At some stage, I suppose, you make a choice between work and commitment. Women are just as likely to say, 'I don't want to marry. I'm chasing a career.' Then they reach a crossroads -- 'have I got where I want by 35?' If the answer is yes, they look for an appropriate man to have a baby with before it's too late. It's a biological inconvenience."
- "Acting is less easy but more rewarding the longer I do it. I never thought I'd hear myself say that. It's so pretentious, but if you play a repressed, fastidious, emotionally barren solicitor like Soames, it affects you in the same way as real people -- editors or bankers -- are worn down by office politics. I'm more ebullient and gregarious than most of the uptight characters I play. I think I'm chosen for them because of my background, although it's wrong to assume all public-school boys are the fifties idea of repressed Englishmen."
- "In moments of preciousness I think with typical upper-middle-class guilt, I should be doing something more useful with my life, but communication through artistic forms is important. All civilisations should have paintings on walls, people standing on stage shouting, and others behind a camera having their photos taken."
- He's the third child of four, all by the same mother, Charlotte. Her first husband died when daughter, Amanda, was three and her son, William, was one. She married Damian's father, Watcyn, five years later and had him ["the ham in the sandwich"] and younger brother Gareth, a scriptwriter. It's clearly been a happy, successful family -- Amanda organised the Prince's Trust and was awarded an MVO. She now runs a pub in Bristol. William is a wealthy stockbroker. Watcyn, of Welsh descent, worked in re-insurance. "My grandparents paid for Eton. They're Bowaters on my mother's side, whose newsprint firm sold lots to Rupert Murdoch's father." Both parents were keen on the theatre. "Our holiday treat was a West End show. Dad has a beautiful voice. He lived in Chicago for five years and was dancing in a bar when a Hollywood producer invited him to be in a chorus line. He never quite had the balls, and it's a huge link between my parents and myself that I give them that show-business element."
- Tragically, his mother was killed last year in a car crash in India. "That makes time seem important. I wasn't to use it better, although I can't say I've succeeded. It also makes you honest, suddenly. You tell people things you wouldn't have before -- how much you love them. The clinical explanation is 'post-traumatic stress disorder.' For Warriors we researched what happens when you undergo extreme stress -- like getting a phone call saying your mother has just been killed in a car crash. You think you've experienced something no one else can understand, and that you're justified, because of your pain, in wrecking a car, screaming out loud in a supermarket. I'm not saying I did any of that when Mum died, but it made me feel I didn't need to pussyfoot around. Life has an urgency. I haven't said this before, but Dad is my hero. He's been the most remarkable and positive force in my life. He spent 31 years with Mum. The crash was horrific, unfair and cruel, but it's happened and you don't get over it. He's distraught."
- "At the moment I say, crudely, I'm on a financial curve, which is seductive. I don't want to do Ibsen and Chekhov all my life, but I do want to do them -- in the same way as I want to jump out of helicopters and shoot people."
- He's about to return to Canada to finish filming Dreamcatcher, from a Stephen King novel. "The rewards are exponentially greater than theatre, so there's the question: 'Am I selling out and making a crappy Hollywood movie?' I never had a problem with that because I don't see it as selling out. I'm clear about when I'm making something worthy, or fluffy and superficial. I enjoy both equally. A large part of me is fluffy and superficial, as well as worthy. I'm over the moon about the film. It's going to be remarkable or atrocious, and you never know. I'm told the trick is to book your next one before this one comes out, in case it's a disaster. I exercise quality control and don't like to think I'm a hired hand. Although that, of course, is exactly what I am."
MARIE CLAIRE, 04/02:
- He is full of ice breaking mockney banter -- half the time you don't know whether he's teasing or not.
- I ask Damian if it's true he was taken ill with appendicitis on the first day of filming The Forsyte Saga. He shows me the scar from the surgery and then jokes "Ioan and I had a bit of an argument over a scene. He slashed me with a knife." "He was in serious pain, bless him," says Ioan. "I'd been told it might be trapped wind and so I had a couple of suppositories whipped up my backside," adds Damian sharing too much information.
- We move on to relationships and here's a surprise: neither has ever lived with a girlfriend. "It detracts from the romance of making a home together," Damian says, growing serious for once. "I love the idea of doing it, once you've decided that person's the one you're going to spend the rest of your life with. People have told me you just know, but I've never been close to that."
- "I'm quite a late developer, emotionally, so I've learned a lot from Ioan."
- I put it to them that they are irretrievably old fashioned. They seem quite taken with the idea. Damian: "I think that's rather nice. There's so much emphasis on cool and hip and trendy these days. There are very few old fashioned film stars at the moment -- someone who brings a Burt Lancaster sort of thing to a movie."
THE TV MAG, 04/02
- "I can't say I had serious ambitions as a footballer, but I did have school trials for England, so I got to that sort of level. Now I'm a massive Liverpool fan."
- "In about 10 years, I'd like to think I'd be happily married with kids. Maybe three -- I'm fond of a family of four but I'm not sure I could deal with that, let alone expect my wife to!"
- In another scene [in Archer], he ends up making love to the former Prime Minister. But all is not as it first appears. "They got a Chippendale in to be a body double for some of the sex scenes -- only for a tiny bit of it you understand," laughs Damian.
- "I am single again and I'm enjoying it for the time being."
IN STYLE, 05/02:
- Is there any role he's still hankering after? "I'd love to play Elvis, but I'm not sure they'd let me."
- Have you ever had to wear anything embarrassing? "Once on stage I had to wear a whalebone dress, corseted to push up the boobs, and four-inch heels, a wig and lots of make-up, but I didn't really find it embarrassing. I quite enjoyed it."
- Is there anything you wouldn't wear or do? "Take my clothes off." Never? "Maybe with a three-month warning. That would give me just enough time to start doing Pilates and get my abs in shape." Do you keep fit? "I don't have a fitness regime because I play a lot of sport -- tennis and football -- so I stay fit that way. I'd like to do yoga and feel soft and loose and creamy in my hips. I feel a bit cranky and stiff."
- Describe your style: "Today I'm in leathers and jeans as I'm on my motorbike [a red Honda VFR 750]. This sweater is Armani, these jeans are Diesel and that's my Steve McQueen leather jacket. Steve McQueen epitomises cool in the way that no one else does."
- Are you a jeans or suits man? "I do suits. I like Gucci suits and shirts and I've got a really nice Aquascutum suit which is very conventional in an English sort of way -- kind of Sixties with two vents. Suits must always have a double vent at the back, it's very important."
- So you're quite fashion conscious? "I do like clothes but I think what I probably try to do is wear expensive clothes and make them look scruffy. I have a very nice Prada mac -- sort of retro sixties crombie style -- which is also very Steve McQueen.
- Do you like shopping? "Yes and I love shopping for girls. I love buying underwear." ... "I think it's more fun to buy someone something than go through a nightly shall-I-wear-this selection process. I seem to get it right most of the time. You know when you've got it wrong as the thing doesn't get worn."
- "...Damian Lewis, the only time I'd seen him was in [HBO's] Band of Brothers. He really held the center of that huge project, and I thought, 'Oh, my God. This guy has enormous soul.' His Jonesy character is the soulful center of this group. A lot of crazy and scary things happen around him. [He's] a guy who is essentially a sensitive college professor who then becomes a very dangerous alien all in the same body, so it's kind of fun, and I thought, 'There's the guy that could do it.'" -- Lawrence Kasdan
(PUBLICATION UNKNOWN), 7/02:
- "Damian Lewis, the only time I'd seen him was in [HBO's] Band of Brothers . He really held the center of that huge project, and I thought, 'Oh, my God. This guy has enormous soul.' His Jonesy character is the soulful center of this group. A lot of crazy and scary things happen around him. [He's] a guy who is essentially a sensitive college professor who then becomes a very dangerous alien all in the same body, so it's kind of fun, and I thought, 'There's the guy that could do it.'" -- Lawrence Kasdan
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, 09/27/02:
- Lewis found the key to Soames in the character's repressed, buttoned-up Victorian temperament, and used his own experience as a onetime boarder at Eton to get into character. "There are still traditions and characteristics of the school that I went to that are kind of Victorian," says Lewis. "And so I feel I understand that quite well. I'm a more effusive person than Soames myself, but I probably have [a certain English reticence]. It didn't seem a huge leap to make in the end."
VANITY FAIR, 09/02:
- As the wife of possessive Soames Forsyte, she [Gina McKee] has a pound sterling to play against. He is, as his uncle jibes, a "man of property," and if there is a villain in the story it is Soames. But played by Damian Lewis, the actor who was Steve McQueen-steeley in Band of Brothers, he is impossible to hate. In this unlovable man we feel the ache of a poet, a poet who has no words. The power he brings to the final minutes of this amazing series is a breakthrough of blossoming -- a masterpiece.
TV GUIDE, 10/05/02:
- How much of Lewis is in Soames? "Holy Moses! Is he like me? No, I like to think of myself as a little lighter than he is. But I understand elements of emotional repression. I think my friends might accuse me of that."
"LEWIS GOES IN BOOTS AND ALL," NEWSPAPER UNKNOWN, AUSTRALIAN, FALL 2002
- Lewis ... has plenty of charm and charisma and an inner strength that impressed the Spielberg camp immediately [during the casting process for Band of Brothers].
- "Damian was fantastic in training [for Band of Brothers], busted his butt -- there's something in that little ginger shit's eyes," [Capt. Dale] Dye says.
- A sense of determination, combined with a natural authority, while at the same time possessing an ability to be easygoing, enabled Lewis to fit in straight away when he turned up for training [for Band of Brothers].
- What has Lewis taken from the entire Band of Brothers experience? "Well, an incredible amount of history!" he replies. "Plus the fact that I don't want to go into the army but I'm happy to act it."
DAILY MAIL, 11/16/02:
- There is a veneer of Old Etonian confidence, a touch of city slickness.
- On his first attempt at comedy (Jeffrey Archer: The Truth): "The other stuff I've done has not exactly been a bundle of laughs. I've been lucky enough to be asked to do A-grade quality drama -- posh TV. And that image stays with you. So it's great that Guy (Jenkins, the writer and director) thinks I can do this."
- Presumably Damian Lewis is now able to pick and choose exactly what he wishes to do? "Yes, I am. Except that even the top Hollywood actors squabble over parts, so no one obtains total power of choice." He sounds very confident. "I don't think I'm neurotic, put it that way. you're right; I do feel quite certain about what I want to do. I think I have quite good instincts." In another actor, such self-assurance would be alarming, but he does not seem an arrogant man. Last year, his mother, Charlotte, was killed in a car crash in India. Lewis himself was lucky to survive a motorcycle accident some time ago. His ego is tempered by the awareness that silver-spoon backgrounds do not guarantee an easy life.
- Lewis grew up in the prosperous London suburb of St. John's Wood; the third child of wealthy parents. His father, Watcyn, was a reinsurance broker and a Lloyd's "name" who lost money when the organisation's syndicates crashed. "He had all the problems everyone else did. Though Dad never invested beyond his collateral, so he was relatively unscathed. They all made shedloads of money in the 1970s, when the Middle East boomed, and the lost it."
- At the age of eight Lewis was sent to prep school in Sussex, as a boarder. "People seem quite shocked by that, but my parents were very liberal. It was all discussed within the family. I was a bumptious, physically-developed little boy with loads of energy, and I was dying to go."
- "I got a phone call in the middle of the night to say that she [his mother] had been involved in a car accident. I think one just goes into a shock that manifests itself in many different ways. you're not catatonic, but everything goes dull for a period of time, a long time. Maybe a year, or a year and a half."
- The crash happened on a spring day last year , as his parents traveled through India. As Lewis learned later, Watcyn had pulled his wife's body from the wreckage. "Afterwards Dad was just so incredible. We all took our strength from him. Inevitably he had spent much more time with Mum than any of us had and then he was with her when it happened. So for him it was a far more graphic experience than for us. But he has been absolutely wonderful. His example, in trying to find some positive outcome from her death and to live his life in a positive way, has been heroic."
- As for Lewis, his mother's death altered him in ways that he still cannot understand. "It just kind of changes your perception of the world around you and the way you live. And of course it makes you reappraise your relationship with your parents. It gives you a strange objectivity."
- He bought a house in Camden, north London, when he moved out of a flat where he lived with his brother Gareth.
- "I've never lived with a girlfriend, actually." Is that because of his schedule or because he clings to his independence? "I'm a commitment-phobe. No, it's probably a mixture of all three. Eventually I would like to be married of course. I come from a big, happy family and we are all very close. If one of your fantasies is lying on a bed in Hollywood surrounded by eight naked women, then another 'tis to have a beautiful wife and a nice rambling house in London with three kids running around ... perhaps it's good to have a bit of tension in your fantasy life."
- He certainly doesn't sound exceptional husband material, but then he has never pretended to be. Years ago, he used to spend his holidays touring the South of France on a motorbike, playing guitar and busking in smart resorts, not because he needed the money but because he aspired to an Easy Rider image. More recently, he was hurled through the windscreen of a taxi that pulled out in front of him as he rode home from the theatre.
- "I actually hit the frame of the windscreen. Thank God I had a full-face helmet on, rather than the open-face one I usually wore. I suppose I might be dead. Certainly I would have had my face rearranged. I went flying over the car, and I was out cold in the road for five minutes before I woke up to see this male nurse who had been in the back of the cab. I could feel him gripping my pulse and as he told me that it had disappeared for a while. Afterwards I went around with concussion for three months, arguing with people, getting depressed and not being able to watch TV because it gave me such a bad headache. My girlfriend at the time bought me a pile of jigsaw puzzles and I sat at home doing those. When I went back on stage I nearly passed out and had to sit down in the middle of a scene."
- On ambition: "If your self-employed you need to expand your business, and for that business to get bigger and better and more fulfilling. If you're seen in a successful Hollywood movie, then any theatre and most TV companies will want you to work for them because you're high-profile and put bums on seats. People say going to Hollywood is selling out, but I don't think the distinction is as clear as that. You might do an artistically bankrupt project as a business choice. I don't think business should be a dirty word. And if you can be in Los Angeles, sitting by a pool in January, then I'll take it. It's like a big resort for me. I'm meeting exciting people who seem to like English actors and it's all quite feel-good. If I was waiting for the phone to ring and working out where my local grocer's was I would find it depressing. But to go in with trumpets is a lot of fun."
- Damian Lewis is charming company and not at all arrogant. Even so, his ambitions contain just enough of a hint of hubris and materialism....
SUNDAY TIMES, 11/17/02:
- Lewis is the sort of echt young toff that Archer so admires: rich insurance-broker father, St. John's Wood childhood, mother on the development boards of the Almeida and Royal Court theatres, the whiff of Brideshead about him, in a modern sort of way.
- "The camera was intrusive. I was always darting around it, looking for my audience, just wishing it wasn't there. Now ... you're gonna ask if I love the camera. Come off it! Oh, all right then, yeah, I do. I love it."
- Lewis can't help fizzing with confidence. He is the sort of boy who could charm grannies, dogs and leading ladies, who could walk into any party, onto any set, and make it his own: funny, smart, irreverent and with manners so beautiful you could frame them. Tea with the Queen, one gets the impression, would pose no problem, while his mockney mode would rival Guy Ritchie's. When his savoir-faire accidentally fails him, he looks almost comically stricken.
- There is a restless, reckless quality to Lewis, the sort of daring that no doubt has him riding his motorbike too fast, and has inspired comparisons to Steve McQueen. When he raves that The New York Times devoted a whole page to the thrilling stage fight in his Broadway Hamlet with Ralph Fiennes, you sense he'd like to do it all again -- right now! -- the urgency of the boxer to get back in the ring.
- In preparation for his demanding role [as Jeffrey Archer], Damian Lewis immersed himself in the noble pursuits of the great man -- "I'm learning how to hurdle, I'm learning how to dance, I'm learning how to make love. Because, as we all know, these are things that Jeffrey does amazingly."
THE OBSERVER, 11/24/02:
- [In Jeffrey Archer: The Truth,] Damian Lewis, still in the run of success that has included Band of Brothers and Soames in The Forsyte Saga, finds exactly the right level of self-delusion and caddish mania. Lewis says he made no attempt at all to impersonate Archer, rather he 'saw the role as an audition for the next James Bond'. Even so, he captures enough of the Boy's Own anarchy to make him easily recognisable.
- Having Lewis's name attached to anything is starting to look like a shrewd investment. Something about his aura of self-control, and maybe his cool blue-grey eyes, has prompted comparisons to Steve McQueen from several reviewers. In person, what's particularly striking is the whiteness of his complexion under his copper-coloured hair.
ES MAGAZINE, 11/28/02:
- In person, he is bigger than you'd imagine -- fleshier and surprisingly relaxed and friendly, though he has a noticeable self-assurance and confidence that directors are drawn to. He's 30, but somehow he has the composure of someone older, and he's charming.
- You sense that Damian is not without vanity. He volunteers the information that he was voted one of Britain's 50 sharpest men by Esquire magazine, and mentions being miffed at a critic's description of his small mouth. Yet he has neither the poster-boy looks nor the egocentric approach to acting associated with the professional love interest. He is destined to be a serious quality actor and, though there's a part of him that wants to be chased by screaming girls, deep down he knows it. "This might sound naive, but my overall ambition is to be employed for acting ability. I do it because I love it."
- On Archer: "I really wanted to do this and comedy's not difficult for me. I'm clownish most of the time anyway."
THE WESTERN MAIL, 11/29/02:
- Lewis ... has a Welsh grandmother from Carmarthenshire.
- "There's a gulf between one's own self-perception and the way people view you. I wouldn't have thought it was a huge leap for me to do comedy, because I feel quite clownish most of the time anyway."
- "A lot of people might be saying 'Why's he doing this Jeffrey Archer thing for the BBC? That sounds risky,' but for me there was no question about it," says Lewis. "I read the script and it was hysterical. It's an interesting acting challenge, and that's what I'm about."
- "After Band of Brothers, I got offered lots of stuff," he says. "I know it sounds pious, but you can only follow the good scripts. I was offered a couple of movies. One was a part in Black Hawk Down, for example, and that would certainly be following talent, Ridley Scott, but I'd just been a soldier for eight months, and they hadn't let us see a script at that point. If I'm cocky, it's probably there that I'm cocky. Whoever is asking me to work with them, I've got to see a script."
- Instead of movies, he chose The Forsyte Saga -- a job he thought long and hard about accepting. "I read it and thought, 'Do I really want to do another five months on a big TV serial?', but you end up doing it because the script is so good. Of course you lose a little bit more control if you're contractually obliged to turn up for the second year running, whether you like it or not, but happily I do like it."
- He describes last year's run of The Forsyte Saga as "unquestionably the biggest costume drama since Pride and Prejudice. It made a huge impact." The role of Soames Forsyte cemented his household-name status in Britain. But because the character is such an unloveable one, Lewis has attracted strange reactions from people in the street. "Personally, the reactions I got after The Forsyte Saga were 'Ugh, you're horrible,' to people screaming at me in the street, to people going 'Ah, we feel really sorry for you.' I tried to help a very drunken young lady in Trafalgar Square one Saturday night. She looked far too well presented to be in the state she was in. It was about 3am, and she was lying on the pavement. I was with some friends and said 'We've got to put her in a cab, we can't leave her there.' We tried to get her into the cab, but she was so far gone, she couldn't remember where she lived. Then suddenly she turned around and looked at me and started screaming at the top of her voice. I jumped back, I thought 'Christ, the cops are going to come!' She was going 'Aah, you're horrible!' and I decided that was enough of my Good Samaritan moment -- and I just legged it."
- Working on Dreamcatcher, was clearly another type of experience, but Lewis still plays it down. "It's the same as making an English film, just on a slightly grander scale. But I did have the chance to work with some great international reputations. Lawrence Kasdan, who directed The Big Chill -- it's fantastic being in a room with him, it's fantastic being in a room with Morgan Freeman, and other young American actors like Donnie Wahlberg, Tom Sizemore and Jason Lee. The one bit of control you can have over your career is who you choose to work with, and as long as you keep picking them good, you've got every chance of having a rewarding career."
DAILY RECORD, 11/30/02:
- And men's style mag GQ last year voted him 31st in a poll of the UK's sharpest dressed men. "I've no idea who was 30 or 32," he says. "I've no idea what makes me sharp. They obviously haven't seen me in the morning."
- In preparation for this demanding role [in Jeffrey Archer: The Truth] Damian Lewis has been immersing himself in the noble pursuits of the great man - "I'm learning how to hurdle, I'm learning how to dance, I'm learning how to make love. Because, as we all know, these are things that Jeffrey does amazingly."
DAILY MIRROR, 12/06/02:
- "I'm only as good as the last thing I've done. I try to build up my reputation so I'll be offered the best scripts for the best money and achieve world domination!" The strategy is paying off. He's done Shakespeare in Stratford and worked in Hollywood. But which way would he like his career to go? "Before I'd have talked about selling out, but now I'd be tempted to do something if it was an awful lot of money. Equally, I'd love to do a good show in the West End, perhaps a remake of Saturday Night Fever. I do things I know I'll enjoy."
DAILY EXPRESS, 12/17/02:
- "I have a secret hankering to sing and dance on stage. I like to think I can sing I mean I've got a musical ear. I was in a musical once at the Donmar Warehouse but no one seems to remember that."
DAILY POST, 2002 (exact date unknown):
- The 31-year-old actor was so keen to play the cold and manipulative Forsyte that he turned down offers from Hollywood so that he could star in the drama. "They just weren't right," he says. "There's so much pressure to get on and be in films in this business. They're great fun but you've still got to keep doing the best material that comes your way. I knew very little about the original Forsyte Saga. But it was a fantastic script and they told me the names of the rest of the people they were trying to get involved. I just jumped at the chance. I thought it was going to be one of those big TV moments which I couldn't afford to miss. I also had this feeling of wanting to pit my wits against great actors of yesteryear. The show was a huge success the first time around and I thought 'Oh they want me to do it.' It fluffs your feathers a bit."
- But his part in The Forsyte Saga hardly got off to a flying start. "On the first day of filming I got appendicitis and it screwed the whole thing up. They had to reschedule everything. So when I came back it was all pretty fraught. But I just felt that it was going to turn out to be very good. You just get a feeling when you are making something."
- Lewis was cast as American war hero Major Richard Winters and had to undergo a grueling 10 day boot camp before filming started. But he had no complaints. "It was fantastic role," he says. "When we met the men who had been involved in the real thing we realised that we were suffering very little hardship. The boot camp took me back to when I was at boarding school and had to share a dormitory. And it was great having no mobile phones for a few days."
- Lewis is currently in Hollywood filming Stephen King's Dreamcatcher which co-stars Morgan Freeman. But this doesn't mean he is planning on a permanent move to the States. "I play one of four friends who take an annual holiday together. They have done the same thing for the past 20 years. It's our favourite weekend of the year. When we are on holiday we get invaded by aliens. The film becomes really weird. I get possessed by an alien so I end playing two people -- which is great fun. Hollywood has become one of the places I can work but I think it's no different from working in this country. It's just that there is where all the money is. I COULD go there, make lots of money and just appear in rubbish. It is more difficult going there and making good things."
- And Lewis claims that he turned down the chance of playing this country's most famous secret agent -- 007 James Bond. "I had heard they were very keen on me," he says. "I did an interview and screen test. They were still really keen. But I pulled out because I had to sign something called an option deal. That is where you sign something before the final screen test which means they own you until they have decided who they want for the part. You have to forego any other parts which come your way even though they might not pick you for the role. It was a gamble. So I pulled out. I grew up with Bond. But I wasn't sure it would be as exciting as it looks on screen. Maybe I just want to be Bond in real life," he laughs.
THE FORSYTE SAGA: THE OFFICIAL COMPANION, 2002:
- Sita Williams, producer (pp. 45-46): "I had a few people very clearly inmy head when we started the casting. I was looking for a particular type of actor: not necessarily posh actors, but people who could handle a style that is very different from the social realism that you see in most dramas. Television tends to strive towards the way people really behave in the modern world, and I needed actors who could show how people from the upper classes used to behave around the turn of the century. So they've got to have that seriousness, that emotional restraint -- but they've also got to be able to convey to the audience the feelings that are going on under the surface. It's quite a hard trick to pull off. ... Perhaps [Damian Lewis is] not an obvious choice [to play Soames], but for me he's the only man for the job. From the moment we met him I knew he was it, he was Soames. He has tremendous self-assurance and poise, so you're very drawn to him, but he can also give the impression of being quite distant. ... All of that [international attention he's received as a result of Band of Brothers] helps, of course, but I still wouldn't have cast him if he wasn't right for the job. Damian wasn't sure at first. He said to me, ‘But surely you don't want a red-haired Soames, do you?' The colour of his hair just doesn't matter! What I like is this chilly, interior quality that he has, combined with the fact that a lot of people find him tremendously attractive. That's the key. You have to see him being cruel and unsympathetic towards Irene, but you have to be sufficiently attracted to him to want to dig a bit deeper and understand why he's behaving this way. Most actors just want to be loved in whatever role they play, but Damian's always been very keen to bring out the cruelty in Soames as well as the more admirable qualities. That way you can see him doing wrong, but you can also understand that he's the architect of his own destruction. I've watched some of the rushes and I've sat there going, 'Oh, no, Soames, please don't do that!' I hope that audiences will be shouting at their televisions in exactly the same way. You can see why Irene hates him, but he just can't stop himself. He never says what he really wants to say, he gets it all wrong and he ends up doing terrible things within that relationship."
- Christopher Menaul, director (p. 45): "I'd seen [Damian Lewis and Ioan Gruffudd] in Warriors [Peter Kosminsky's award-winning film about peacekeepers in Bosnia], which I considered to be one of the best films I've seen for a long time. I thought they worked very well together in that, so it's no coincidence that they're both in this. I wanted two young men who were very contrasted in looks and personae, which they are. And they had to be able to bring out all the layers of a character. It would be very easy for some of these characters to come across as one-dimensional, and that would be a disaster, because the whole point of The Forsyte Saga is that the more you get to know about these people, the more you understand and appreciate them. It would be no good if Soames was just a villain, or if Bosinney was just an arty prig. With Damian and Ioan, you've got two actors who can bring out those depths individually, and who spark off each other very well and add a whole new dimension through that contrast."
- Jan McVerry, writer (p. 58): "Soames is absolutely fascinating for any writer to play with, because he's so complex. There's a temptation to rein him back a bit and make him more sympathetic, because for all his faults you do end up loving him. But the producer was always pushing us to go further, to bring out his dark side, and I was worried that people would just hate him. Now I've seen Damian Lewis's performance, though, I'm not worried, because he brings out all the sympathetic sides of the character that the words themselves don't always contain. Soames is a very disturbed individual, and it's interesting for a woman to write for him. I mean, he's a rapist! But you can understand what's driven him to it. You can see the turmoil in his mind that's twisted him into doing a thing like that."
AMAZON.CO.UK (PROBABLY 2002):
- Now that Band of Brothers has gone out to universal acclaim, and with The Forsyte Saga set to consolidate his position with British audiences, Lewis finds himself in a very different position from this time last year. "I don't know what to expect, I'm hoping that the phone will start ringing a lot more, because there was a huge buzz about both of the shows. Until we've got some reaction to The Forsyte Saga, I've no idea what kind of direction I'll go in. I'm in a state of flux, really. I just sold my house; I'd been living with my brother for the last three years, and he got married so we decided to get rid of the house. So although I live in London, I don't actually have a place there at the moment, apart from my girlfriend's and a room in a friend's house where I keep a lot of stuff. When we were filming The Forsyte Saga, I had a flat on Canal Street in Manchester, which was pretty lively. I'm rather enjoying the experience of being homeless, and I'm in no hurry to buy a place. It's nice to have the loose change, having just sold a house. I can do really responsible things like buying sports cars."
- "Yeah, I did a bit of busking. That takes me back! I had a motorbike. Basically, I saw 'Easy Rider' and I thought I was Dennis Hopper or Peter Fonda, I didn't care which. I had a big Harley-style motorbike and I went down to the South of France on two consecutive summers with my guitar and my tent on the back and played 'Sooperrrtromp,' as the French say. 'Can you play Sooperrrtromp?' And I was trying to do Bob Dylan numbers."
- Did you ever confuse yourself with which accent/voice to use in a scene [in Dreamcatcher]? "Yeah, I had a dialect coach who was helping me with my American accent, and actually at the end, he had to help me with my English accent because I couldn't get back to a decent English accent after speaking in an American one for so long (laughing)."
- Quote from Lawrence Kasdan: "Damian Lewis is an extraordinary young British actor. He's very magnetic, charismatic and soulful. I was just wildly taken with him, and could see that he played an American very easily; I was just knocked out by his abilities."
DREAMCATCHERMOVIE.WARNERBROS.COM, SPRING 2003:
- "Damian Lewis, whom I first saw in 'Band of Brothers,' is an extraordinary young British actor," says [Lawrence] Kasdan. "He's very magnetic, charismatic and soulful. I was just wildly taken with him, and could see that he played an American very easily; I was just knocked out by his abilities."
- Alana Lee: This is your first Hollywood movie. What was it about "Dreamcatcher" that appealed to you?
Damian Lewis: In all honesty, if Lawrence Kasdan [the director] rings you up and then hands you a script that's been adapted by him and William Goldman and says, "I'd like you to come and play one of the lead roles in my movie", it's quite an easy choice. He's a hero of mine and I've grown up watching his movies. He's made some of my favorite movies: "The Big Chill", "The Accidental Tourist", "Body Heat".
ES MAGAZINE, 04/11/03
- Empty bottles of Evian water and a bottle of Visine eyedrops are drewn across the table. Someone had a big party last night. "Oh, it was some fashion party, and it was fun but look at me ..." He eyes himself in the mirror. "I look like an old lizard."
- "I never tried to pretend that I was from Leyton, but when you're starting out in acting it registers very strongly with people if you say you went to Eton. I didn't want to be cast only in Noel Coward -- I wanted to do something a bit edgier." Actually he's done a lot of classical theatre. "But everything I've done is quirky and hip. Oh, and I suppose I went through a period when I thought posh actors couldn't be interesting actors. And I wore a lot of black until a friend of mine said he thought it was making me sexually aggressive." He also developed a thing for cloth caps ("Still love 'em." ) and a habit of "going to the Electric Ballroom in Camden on Friday nights and jumping up and down to AC/DC."
- [During the interview (with a female interviewer)] He suddenly decides that he's "dying for a pee." The door is left ajar. He whistles. I blush.
- "The car crashes in the film [Dreamcatcher] didn't remind me of Mum's car crash, but I've just been to India and the driving or being driven there did remind me of Mum's car crash. Repeatedly."
- The family remains close. Gareth is a scriptwriter and director and Damian plans to executive produce and star in his brother's debut feature, Shakespeare's Cake, later this year.
- He's certainly got tremendous elegance and total self-assurance while managing to be unexpectedly butch. He does, after all, ride a big old motorbike -- a Honda VFR 750, which I'm told is nicely macho.
- I wonder, if he were to be offered a fashion campaign, might he be tempted? "I think maybe I'm just tarty enough to say yes." It turns out he's become sort of ambassador for Jasper Conran with whom he's great friends. They considered asking him to do the show at London Fashion Week. "I would have been terrified. I mean I went to the show and the catwalk was about 60m long and the bank of photographers that you walk towards is quite staggering and I sat down and there were suddenly 15 photographers click, click, clicking at me. I'm not being falsely modest, but it's not like I'm George Clooney ... Yet."
BAFTA TELEVISION AWARDS PROGRAMME, 04/13/03:
- "I had a rather precocious sense of not wanting to follow the beaten path -- Eton, Oxbridge, a career in the world of finance or whatever. I knew pretty early on that I wanted to act and fortunately I had parents who supported me in that dream. I always remember that my dad said, 'It's important to do the thing that you're best at or your life will always be a disappointment to you.' I think that was very sound advice."
- "I do put an awful lot into the job," Lewis admits, "possibly a throw back to my upbringing which was underpinned by a real middle class work ethic. There was a philosophy at home of always being 'useful,' so when I work, I feel guilty if I take the easy route. I fully expect and want to work hard."
- "You grow up and sit in a cinema and watch Raiders of the Lost Ark or Lawrence of Arabia. You see these big epics unfolding and it's fantasy time. Then, if you can actually be able to be part of that, that's really exciting. I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't have ambitions to be a big screen actor. Who in this business doesn't?"
- "Along with every other young British actor or director I know, I'd far prefer to be doing it here than in America. I'd love to be part of a resurgent British film industry, but, for the moment, we don't have the money to make the films with the kind of visual scope that interests me. It's a pity, but it's true."
- "In big films, responsibility tends to be wrested from actors. Once you're in a big concept movie, it's the thrill of the story that counts. As an actor, you can get away with being mediocre and the movie can still be fun and exciting. If you're playing Soames in The Forsyte Saga and you're not good or interesting to watch then, arguably, the whole series could fall on its face. So, actually, TV is far more actor-led than film."
- "In many ways for me, it [Warriors] was the biggest project because it was the first time I'd done any sort of serious drama on TV, the first time I'd really proved to myself that I could act in front of the camera. It gave me the confidence to believe in myself and that's half the trick of acting."
- "To me acting is essentially playing, although obviously there's some craft thrown in. As kids, my brother and I used to pretend we were private eyes, for example, wandering around solving crimes and we used to believe it and totally enter that world. That's basically what I'm still trying to do as an adult actor."
- He's lucky to have had his parents' support, both as a child and later in his adult ambitions to act -- "My parents have been my biggest allies," he says. Sadly, his mother Charlotte was killed in a car crash in India two years ago. She had been on set for Band of Brothers, but did not live to see her son's work come to fruition -- "and that is a real sadness," Lewis says, "but in the end, there is no right time for somebody to die. She may have lived to see my success, but then not seen me marry or become a father. It would have been as hard to lose here whenever she had died." Wisely, following the tragedy, he took some time off: "You need time to reflect on things and let them affect you. The temptation is to lose yourself in the work and try to forget by running around playing other people, but I think you also have to face up to it and to be simply yourself, too. That, I think, is healthy."
- Damian Lewis is starting to feel famous. "It happens a little bit when I'm in America. I'm the guy people will come up to in the store and go, 'Hey, man, loved your work,' but they may not even remember my name, so it isn't a big deal. In Britain, especially since The Forsyte Saga, I've graduated to being not just, 'You know ... that guy ....' but 'Damian Lewis.' It's really nice, actually. If you're in a restaurant and someone takes care of you, or if you're in a department store looking for socks or something and suddenly some guy is being really helpful because he liked something he saw you in on TV, it's a good feeling."
- [He has] an easy-going manner and a quietly devastating wit . ...
- Damian was born in London, the son of a successful insurance broker, and raised in circumstances which he admits to having been comfortable. "It's kind of an American term to say that I was a privileged kid, but I guess it would be true. My parents didn't have loads of money, but my grandparents were quite well off: My grandfather was in business in Australia with Eric Murdoch -- Rupert Murdoch's father -- when his newspaper empire was growing, so he made his money selling news print there. And on my mother's side there was a family called Bowater, who owned the firm Bowater-Scott, which made loo roll and stuff like that. I had a nice childhood -- which doesn't necessarily follow from being well-off. I was lucky."
- He first became interested in acting as a child, appearing in Gilbert and Sullivan productions at his prep school, Ashdown House, where he also won a prize for playing Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. After Eton, he attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, then spent his twenties paying his acting dues in the theatre and gradually becoming known as a competent TV actor.
- "I can only do two accents -- English and American -- but I'm lucky that I can do American, because that's kind of an invitation into the American film community and, in my business, it's a natural extension of things that you want to go to America. I had been getting great TV work in Britain -- the best. But if you want to make more than one movie every two years, you've got to get out of England to do it, because there's no money for movies there. And if you want to make a movie on the grand scale that I want to make movies, then you have to come to America. It was because I could convince people -- rightly or wrongly -- that I was American that I got offered the part in Dreamcatcher."
- About filming Dreamcatcher in the small town with nothing to do: "I even starting going to the gym, which is something I never do!"
- "The fact is that it's difficult to keep even friends over a long period of time -- never mind romance -- when you're changing and moving in different directions in your career. I do make a point of keeping up with my buddies, and for me the most important thing in the world is to go back to London, sit in a pub and have a beer with four or five close friends. And after that, I go out and try to find a girl!"
- He lives in Camden, north London, and says that, movie success or not, he has no intention of relocating to America. "I love coming to Los Angeles, though. I come here a lot. If I have a reason to be here -- like this press junket -- I feel I might as well make it a two-week trip, take some meetings, whatever. Then I'm happy to go back. London's my home. I own a house there and I can't see myself going through the whole emotional upheaval of moving. Besides, even if I did move here, I'd never spend any time here -- most movies are shot on location in Timbuktu or somewhere!"
THE WESTERN MAIL, 04/18/03:
- He made a brief appearance in a dodgy version of Robinson Crusoe starring Pierce Brosnan. "I was killed before the opening credits had finished rolling," he beams, almost with some misguided sense of pride. "I gather it's currently number two in the Czech video charts."
- Meeting Lewis is a delightful experience. If this is one of Britain's most talked-about emerging superstars, the lad himself has no airs or graces, no trace of self-importance. He jokes and teases -- something of a surprise for someone who's made a speciality of playing it mean and moody on screen, whether as the emotionally crippled Soames of The Forsyte Saga (series two is on its way, folks) or the broodingly heroic Major Richard Winters in Band of Brothers.
- Aah, but we're forgetting his Jeffrey Archer, in the BBC's deliciously mad spoof of the disgraced politician's weirder-than-fiction life. "Of course I can do comedy, and I'd love to do some more," says Lewis. "There's a gulf between one's own self-perception and the way people view you. I wouldn't have thought it was a huge leap for me to do comedy, because I feel quite clownish most of the time anyway. And to be honest, Soames Forsyte is pretty funny. He's dark, controlling and tragic, yes, but he's a strangely comedic figure in his buttoned-up way, a bit buffoonish. That's why I got Jeffrey Archer - The Truth."
- "Jonesy starts off as a really great guy until he gets possessed by an evil alien and snaps into this kind of BBC World Service speech, because that's the way he thinks human beings are. It's quite sweet that the alien is so old-fashioned." Playing two characters - the likeable Jonesy and "Mr. Gray" , the alien who takes him over - proved quite a challenge for Lewis, but he rose to it. "It was a lot of fun, as it's kind of two for the price of one acting, just lots of showing off, basically, jumping backwards and forwards between two characters," he says.
- "This is the guy who did The Big Chill, iconic stuff that you've kind of grown up with," enthuses Lewis. "It's fantastic being in a room with him. It's fantastic being in a room with Morgan Freeman, and other young American actors like Donnie Wahlberg, Tom Sizemore and Jason Lee. And we were filming a Stephen King novel, who's the biggest selling novelist in history! So you do kind of keep pinching yourself."
- Somehow it's almost hard to believe that this is Lewis's first major movie, and he understands that feeling. "Yes, my first American movie, if you will, and really my first film, full stop," he smiles. "I did Band of Brothers, The Forsyte Saga for ITV and Warriors for the BBC, and they are the three big things I've done, I guess; they've been seen around the world, but I've never done a film. "Then Larry (Kasdan) saw Band of Brothers and loved it, and asked to see me for Dreamcatcher. When I read the script - and I've seen so much mediocre rubbish - I thought it was far more original than anything I'd read previously, and with Larry directing it, I could hardly say no, so it was an incredible introduction, basically."
- "[Kasdan's] made some of my favorite movies: 'The Big Chill,' 'The Accidental Tourist,' 'Body Heat.'"
THE TICKET, 04/25/03:
- "I could get rid of my London house and buy a new one in Los Angeles, but if I was working I'd only live in it for a month a year. These days, movies are made all over the place. you are far more likely to be shooting in Vancouver or Poland or Manibia, say, than working in Los Angeles. They don't make that many films there now. My family and friends are all around London and I would really miss them if I did leave the city for good. London is my town and, when I'm away from it, I realise how much I like it. And every time I go to America it occurs to me how European I am. Americans and American films have a different sensibility to Europeans. I'm not saying one is better, they're just different. If there was a movie industry in Europe that was like the one in Hollywood -- with a studio system and big films being made all the time -- I wouldn't think of going to LA at all."
- In Dreamcatcher, he plays another American, Prof. Gary "Jonesy" Jones, but his character slips into an aristocratic English voice when Jonesy's body is taken over by an alien. This rather complicated scenario calls on Damian to have conversations with himself using both voices -- and it is to his great credit that he manages to pull it off.
- Damian Lewis wasn't raised to fall apart under pressure. He's an Old Etonian with lots of self-assurance, inner discipline, charm, impeccable manners and so on.
- "You grew up watching big films like Raiders of the Lost Arc or Lawrence of Arabia, and of course you dreamed of being part of something so huge."
- "[Soames is] the kind of role that leaves you needing a couple of drinks just to loosen up a the end of the day."
- Damian isn't set too much on partying. He's got a strong work ethic, instilled in him by his mum. "When we were little, Mum didn't much like us slouching around the place. In our house, there was always a philosophy of working hard and being useful. So now, whatever I'm doing, I feel I have to give it my all. I fully expect, and want, to work hard."
- While on holiday in India (2001), his parents were involved in a car accident, and Damian's mum, Charlotte, was killed.
- "Mum was a beautiful, gorgeous woman. She was the best mother I could have hoped for. That she died when she did still seems so shocking and cruel."
- "The temptation is to throw yourself into your work. That can be a kind of therapy and escape, but I do think you have to give yourself time to grieve. I've tried to do that because, otherwise, I suspect it will hurt you more later."
- Charlotte visited him on the set for Band of Brothers, but didn't live to see the stunning reviews.
- "It's sad, but there's never a right time for someone to die. She could have seen my success and then died before I got married or had my first child. Whenever tragedy happens, it's devastating, and there's always a sense that someone should have been given more time."
- "It's not easy to maintain a relationship when you're constantly away. At the moment, I'm enjoying just being single."
- Rather uniquely in this day and age, Damian -- who recently (before 4/03) bought a swish property in Camden -- has never lived with a woman.
- "Maybe it's just fear, or that old-fashioned thing of not wanting to live with someone until I know that I'm going to marry them. Or maybe I just don't want to share my habits with anyone else." ... "My ugly habits." It's difficult to imagine that Damian, being the perfect English gent, could have any of those. ...
- Damian Lewis and I are on our way to lunch. As soon as we step into a lift full of young female executives, you can feel the temperature rise. When somebody asks him which floor he wants, he quips, "Ladies lingerie, please." It's a great illustration of the 32-year-old's cheeky charm, and it's easy to see why he's captured women's hearts.
- "I read a column by a woman who said 'I must be getting kinky in my old age because I fancy Damian Lewis -- and he's ginger.' I had to laugh: there's such a prejudice towards redheads."
- "I'm enjoying being single. I'm away filming a lot, so it's not a great time for a relationship. I'm open to the possibility that I might find someone who's impossible to resist. I've got a fantasy about living in a huge house with my wife and lots of kids. But at the moment, my nephew and god-daughter Coco are enough."
- On Los Angeles: "It's somewhere I love to visit, but I don't think I could live there. My oldest friends and family are in Britain."
- "I have an older sister who owns a pub, an older brother who's a stockbroker and a younger brother who's a scriptwriter. My dad worked in insurance (he's retired). We grew up in London, where I still live. My mum died two years ago in a car crash in India. We're all only just coming out of the initial shock. I'm going to India soon, for a holiday, I think partly to help me come to terms with what happened."
- What keeps you awake? "The builders next door. That and reflecting on decisions I've made. I worry they might not be the right ones. I think too much in a slightly narcissistic way. My problems aren't that interesting, but I give them a lot of attention. As I get older, I tend to mull things over more."
- As an old Etonian and an actor, were you worried you'd be typecast as a toff? "Definitely. I didn't tell anyone I went to Eton for ages. In my teens I hung out with lots of people who weren't public school educated and that moderated my accent. At Eton, I was surrounded by handsomely foppish Hugh Grant lookalikes. I was always the comedy redhead.
- He spent a little time with relatives in Connecticut and Chicago and various other American places during various summers of his youth.
IN STYLE, 04/03:
- Nickname: "Damage or Damo, both coming from my name."
- Favorite films: "The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon. I love his comic timing. Also Central Station, a Brazilian film."
- Dream co-star: "Ingrid Bergman. She had a coolness and a fire at the same time. I find that dichotomy compelling."
- Favorite landmark: "The Egyptian pyramids -- they're amazing. I went there when it was super hot and did the tourist thing: got on a camel and went clippity-cloppiting around the desert. You seem to be in the suburbs of Cairo, and suddenly these pyramids just rise, like out of someone's back garden."
- Favorite TV show: "The Office, a half-hour [BBC] sitcom about the epitome of a nightmare boss and the way he manipulates his staff. It's very deadpan, and the writing is fantastic."
- Favorite musicians: "I listened to a lot of Elvis. I thought I was Elvis until I was 18. I also liked Supertramp -- very unfashionable. My favorite band right now is Coldplay."
- Last three charges on my credit card: "1) An emergency repair for my Sky [cable] TV, 2) shirt at Joseph, in London, 3) a flight from London to Los Angeles."
- In three words I am: "Lazy. Impatient. Red."
DAILY EXPRESS, 05/22/03:
- "My greatest sadness is that my mother didn't live to see me as TV's Soames." ... "I was very close to my mother. It was terribly sad, although I think as a family we cope well. It was such a shame she didn't live to see me in the first series of The Forsyte Saga. She would have absolutely loved it. That was the sort of thing she always said she wanted me to do -- a nice period costume drama."
- He hasn't made up his mind as to whether he will send his own sons, when he has them, to Eton but he was happy there. He wasn't even teased on account of his flaming red hair. "I escaped that and the reason was that I could play sport. That's important when you're at boarding school. I may have been called 'carrot top' or something but that was the extent of it. I was never persecuted, at least not to my face." He was nominated a "debs' delight" long before he was allowed out into the general population to delight the commoner sort of girl. "I went to a party when I was about 18 and someone asked me for my address, which I just thought was very friendly. Then I got a bunch of invitations from people I had never heard of. It was only then that a friend pointed out to me that I had been put on a guest list and had become a debs' delight. I didn't know that kind of thing still existed."
- On working with Robert Redford: "As soon as he opens his mouth, 30 years of cinema flash before you -- all those films that I loved and grew up with such as Butch Cassidy, The Great Gatsby, All The President's Men. I'll never forget being in the queue in the coffee tent on location and suddenly realising that Robert Redford was standing behind me."
- Lewis's red hair (shared with a brother and a sister but not with his parents or grandparents) is a mystery to him. "It must be a recessive gene," he muses. It might also have something to do with his Welshness. "I don't speak Welsh and I'm a bit of a faux Welshman but I always think I ought to be included in those photo-spreads they do of the Welsh boys -- Ioan Gruffudd, Matthew Rhys and Rhys Ivans."
TV & SATELLITE WEEK, 05/24/03:
- "If people with red hair can be perceived as sexy and land romantic leads, then that has to be good for redheads in general. It's fun to be able to challenge the status quo. Tom Hanks said to me, 'you're going to be the first-ever red-headed film star.' It's certainly looking that way."
- As the dramatic dynasty returns to our screens this Sunday, the sadistic Soames -- played with glorious suppressed fury by Damian Lewis -- is vexed once again.
SUNDAY EXPRESS, 05/25/03:
- "There was a point when I started thinking, 'Maybe I'll never be a TV or film actor, maybe I'm too big or too orange and I'll stay in theatre,' but I got over it. I didn't feel envious of peers who were making movies at 25 -- I was still too busy running around big stages shouting. I had too much energy and the theatre was the best place for me."
- "I love what is happening. It's given me a career in America and lots of choices about what to do next, which is something every actor wants."
- "I'm single now. I was in a relationship but I don't want to talk about it. I don't get knickers sent to me in the post -- sadly. And the celebrity thing is fun to do as long as you know it's just a game. But if you start to live and breathe it, then you are in trouble. That's my take on it, but watch this space and see how badly I screw up!"
- His mesmerizing performance as Major Dick Winters in Band of Brothers matched anything his contemporaries have achieved.
SUNDAY MIRROR, 05/25/03
- "Sexy? My hair? Well I never looked at it that way. But if I'm striking a blow for red-haired blokes everywhere, good. We've been misunderstood. People always thought you had to be a bit kinky to fancy a redhead."
- "I'm not a workaholic, but I'm single, and I enjoy what I do. Traveling prevents me from having a proper relationship, so I have chosen not to have one. In the past I was only ever involved in long-distance ones and frankly I don't want that kind again. When I was younger, it would be an explosive romantic weekend. Don't get me wrong, that's great, but it does prevent a relationship from ever moving on to the next level. One day I want to be in a situation where you can just hang out with each other, be friends, do the ordinary domestic things, have an argument, live with each other, and share a bed most nights. So far I've never been able to do all that. Right now I'm happy being single. But I know my priorities will change."
- The important people in his life are his family and friends, especially his brothers William and Gareth. He and Gareth bought a house together in London, but last year the inevitable happened -- one of them found a wife and the other moved out. Damian was best man. "I don't cry easily, but I did get choked at his wedding. It was the best moment of my life so far, seeing Gareth get married. I was so nervous ... I almost caused chaos. When we got to the church I discovered I'd forgotten the buttonholes, including the groom's. I had to nick a rose off someone and explain that Gareth needed it more."
- He was known as "Carrot-Top" at Eton.
- "When I was growing up Mum and Dad would always say to me: 'We love you whatever, just do your best at what you do, otherwise you'll be disappointed with yourself.' That was loving and encouraging, a philosophy ingrained in me. I'm not ambitious in the sense of wanting a jet, five cars and seven houses. But I want to achieve a quality of life. Given a choice, I'd want a four-bedroom house in a smart area like Primrose Hill in London, rather than in Streatham. I valued my childhood. I remember having quite grown-up conversations with Mum and Dad."
- Two years ago, Damian's mother was killed in a car accident, a tragedy that haunts him. "We were close, I still think about her a lot."
- A couple of years before he had narrowly escaped death in a motorcycle accident. He was traveling home from the London Barbican, where he was appearing in Shakespeare's Cymbeline, when his bike collided with a taxi. He was thrown through the windscreen, knocked unconscious, and his jaw shattered. "The situation wasn't without humour. The passenger in the cab was a nurse, but he was drunk, so all he could do was hold on to me until I came round."
- "The day we filmed the rape scene [in The Forsyte Saga] was September 11, 2001. One of the crew told us that two planes had flown into the World Trade Center. Then we had to carry on filming. It was a strange day."
- "I tried to help this lady in Trafalgar Square one Saturday night because she looked far too well-presented to be in the state she was in. It was about three in the morning, and she was basically lying on the pavement. I was with some friends and we felt we couldn't just leave her there. We wanted to put her in a cab and send her home. We tried to get an address out of her as we were staggering with her towards the taxi rank, when suddenly she turned on me and started screaming at the top of her voice: 'you're horrible, you're that man!' I couldn't believe it. I wanted to just leave here there and run, but we managed to help her and quickly left the scene!"
- What's refreshing about Lewis is that he doesn't mind admitting he adores being a star.
- He unashamedly admits to standing in front of a mirror when he was a kid being "interviewed" by the likes of Terry Wogan. It paid off: these days he gives real interviews with grace and charm.
- When I remind him we met in the days before Hollywood scripts regularly landed on his door mat, he's genuinely anxious to know that he hasn't changed too much. "I'm still the same person, aren't I? I really hope no one thinks I've gone off big headed. I mean, it's just a job, isn't it?" I can tell him with honesty that no, he hasn't changed. He might be wearing a more expensive suit and he's certainly got more people wandering in and out asking if he needs anything, but Lewis is the same friendly and affable guy I met on the set of the BBC drama Hearts and Bones.
- Two long-term relationships -- one with actress Elie Garnett and another with TV producer Katie Razzall -- have already bitten the dust and he admits he finds it hard to commit. On the day we meet he reveals, "I'm currently single and enjoying myself -- for the time being anyway. It's not ideal, but I go away a lot so it's about life management basically."
- On his success: "It's funny because when I was at drama school I never imagined failing and I always believed it'd work out because I didn't stop to think otherwise. Now I'm lucky enough to be in the position I'm in, I want to enjoy it. I don't want to keep thinking about the next step because I want to make the most of what I'm doing here and now. I'm having a ball."
- In Dreamcatcher, British actor Damian Lewis ... plays a character who commences the movie getting mown down by a car. A deliberate reference to King's own collision with a van, it wasn't much of a stretch for Lewis. In 1998, he came out second-best in an encounter with a London taxi cab while riding home from the theatre on his motorbike. "I actually hit the frame of the windscreen. Thank God I had a full-face helmet on, rather than the open-face one I usually wore. I suppose I might be dead. Certainly I would've had my face rearranged. I was out cold in the road for five minutes before I woke up to see this male nurse who had been in the back of the cab. I could feel him gripping my pulse and he told me that it had disappeared for a while." He pauses to take in the significance, "Yeah, it's kind of weird, isn't it?" Pragmatic and intelligent, Lewis is not one to take stock in such things.
- [He] grew up on Abbey Road in London.
- On Jeffrey Archer: The Truth: "Ha! Well, it was all getting a bit serious and I'd never considered myself a serious actor -- I had done comedy in theatre. You put Band and Forsyte together and there are not a lot of laughs around. It was really fun to do something silly and Naked Gun-ish."
SUN SENTINEL, 06/25/03:
- Q: Please settle a bet. Is that fine actor, Damian Lewis, American or British? A: The son of an insurance broker, Lewis was raised in London, but spent his vacations with relatives in Connecticut and Illinois. "I developed an ear for the nuances of American speech," he says. "And I'm glad I did, because if you want to make movies on a regular basis you've got to work in Hollywood."
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 08/25/03:
- Quote from Sita Williams: "The minute Damian walked in the room there was no question he was Soames. He had a complete self-assurance and self-belief, an arrogance, if you like. He understood the character completely."
- [Sita] Williams produces a postcard from our own fair shores: "Dear Granada TV," it reads, "We will give you Ian Thorpe, Pat Rafter, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger and 10 Bondi lifesavers, bronze and firm of thigh, in exchange for one Damian Lewis. Please contact us to make the necessary arrangements. Kind regards, the women of Australia." ... "I'm too weak to not find it flattering," laughs Lewis later that day when the postcard is brought up. "I'm sure there is some careful and clever game to be played with how your persona takes shape as an actor and I'm not sure what route one has to take. But I think if you just become a sex symbol ... then you have the sex symbol's lament. 'Oh, God, I always play the handsome guy who is dependable and solid,' and those actors are always hungry for character roles. I think there is a path between the two where you have a foot in either camp."
- We are on the point of choosing the same fish dish when he decides this is a bad idea. "We should have different things, so we can taste each other's." Remembering this is something he must have said to women who are not necessarily keeping a professional distance, he changes his mind. "I think we can both have the sole. It's not as if we're lovers."
- A couple of weeks ago, he received 40 pairs of knickers in the post, knickers of "every imaginable size and shape," from women united in admiration of his Soames, his sex appeal, and maybe his unapologetic gingeriness. That's the sort of fan mail he gets these days. "I threw them away, though not immediately. They were strewn about my bedroom for a while. I didn't know what to do with them. Who would have wanted a furry thong for Christmas?" After he had disposed of them, tramps visited his rubbish bin and he returned from dinner one evening to find a trail of knickers stretching, as in an adults-only version of Hansel and Gretel, from his house in Camden all the way down his street. "I spent half an hour in the dark collecting pants. Thank you to everybody who sent them."
- "If your ambitions to do well, it's what you strive for: a certain level of recognition. I don't mean in the supermarket, but within your profession."
- "I was brought up to do the best and get the most out of everything, whether it's football or going for a walk. To commit. It can make for a restless life. Mum and Dad were absolutely as one over this. There was no pushiness. They were just saying: we think this will give you the most rewarding life. you knew they would love you whatever you did."
- "When I hit 30, I thought I'd arrived at the age I was always meant to be. I remember relaxing, being less tense, trying less hard. I felt more of a man, less of a boy. Then, paradoxically, you allow yourself to be boyish and to act younger because you are confident. You become an all-round nicer person, I think. He gives one of those Soamesy smiles, engaging just one corner of his mouth. "I'm not sure if it's lasted." He categorises his faults quite fluently, possibly because none of them makes him sound like a brute or a cad. He's impatient, conservative, controlling and indecisive. And the redhead's traditional temper? "I go quiet. Like Soames." He also has an annoying habit of making a simple question seem heavy with unimagined complexities. The dish of dauphinoise potatoes he has ordered is still untouched. Does he cook? "Do I cook?" he echoes. "Difficult to know what that question means. Do I cook for myself three times a week and enjoy it? No. Do I eat at home once a week and eat out the rest of the time? Yes. Do I like inviting people over and cooking for them? Yes." This can become tiring. Then there's his love of riddles. When I ask if there is a significant woman in his life right now (there apparently isn't), he rambles on about liking the idea of "liberation through denial," of focusing on one thing, to the exclusion of other things that may seem tempting, exciting and alluring. "There have been times when I have lived my life that way and other times when I have flagrantly not; when I have been just living life in a pick-and-mix way." And which phase is he in now, the ascetic or the pick-and-mix? "I'm not sure. I am in transition" Another crooked smile. "And you don't know which way." I give up. It seems much simpler to plunge, with separate forks, into the pommes dauphinoises.
OFFICIAL LONDON THEATRE, 11/01/03:
- Quote from Tom Hanks: "We were looking for an enigmatic leader, a guy you can't explain, but how explains himself by his mere presence. Lewis had that without question, as soon as he sat down we knew."
- Michael Attenborough, his director [of Five Gold Rings] at the Almeida, says Lewis's great strengths are emotional accuracy and love of language. "He is very controlled but shows you a wealth of feeling beneath the surface. His scenes with Helen McCrory are lovely."
OFFICIAL LONDON THEATRE, 12/11/03:
- His fame has reached such heights that he was apparently sent 40 pairs of knickers (of "every imaginable size and shape") in the post last month. "I threw them away, though not immediately. They were strewn about my bedroom for a while. I didn't know what to do with them. Who would have wanted a furry thong for Christmas?"
- But, as Kasdan points out: "He's an extraordinary actor. He's magnetic, charismatic and soulful. And he plays an American very easily. I was knocked out by his ability. This may have been his first film but it won't be his last, that's for sure."
- Q. Was it hard to watch yourself in the crash scene, it's very graphic? A. What the accident or me acting? (laughs) Because that's always quite hard the first time. Well, I've had a bad motorbike crash myself, and I know what it's like to come round in the middle of a road in the middle of the night, with rain just dripping on you and the blur and sounds of a ring of faces peering down at you. And the cliched way of shooting someone who has been in an accident, which we've all seen, you put the camera and look up at the faces and it's all blurred and there are lights and, you know, sirens in the distance, is exactly what it is like when you wake up from a crash when you have been knocked out on the street.
- Q. When was that? A. It was 1998.
- Q. What was the bike? A. I was riding a Triumph Sprint 900. I was in London, I had just been on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, we were doing Much Ado About Nothing. A cab pulled out, it was just a typical cliched motorbike accident, where I was the only thing in the road and I saw him 400 yards back and I got 200 and I thought 'well he has obviously seen me' and then 50, and then he just pulled out. It's just one of those things when you are riding a bike, it's going to happen to you at some point. People just don't see you.
- Q. And how badly hurt were you? A. Amazingly, I broke nothing but I had concussion for three months.
DAILY EXPRESS, 12/03 or 01/04:
- On Five Gold Rings: So are you moving away from television? "I'm doing this because it's such an exciting piece of writing. There are good roles on TV, but I haven't been on stage for four years and I thought it'd be a good time. I'm terrified!"
- Do women throw themselves at you? "I don't really know, erm, I don't know. It's ... ah, sometimes! One woman recently organised others from around the world to send me their knickers. I got 40 pairs in the post. Some were nice."
- So what did you do with the knickers? "I threw them out after a couple of days, but one night some winos went through my garbage and found them. There was a trail of girls' knickers leading out from my house!"
- "I'm single. One day I'll settle down. I think getting married and having children would be extraordinary and challenging. And certainly it will affect my career, because if I've got a young kid and I'm asked to be away for three months, I might choose not to take that job."
- Do you prefer London or LA? "I have a lot of good friends in LA and I like the change of lifestyle, the sun, the easy life. I think, in the end, LA would not be as culturally stimulating as London."
- Do you like being famous? "Well, the money makes life easier. But fame doesn't really help you spiritually. The only way to avoid fame is not to take big projects that will make you a household name. But that's basically saying stop being ambitious. You get recognised, but sometimes that's good -- like when someone in the sock department at John Lewis will help you!"
METRO CAFE, 02/05/04:
- Ever miss being a promising, but relatively unknown RSC stage actor? "No, because now I'm a promising but relatively unknown film actor. I'd be lying if I said I don't enjoy the fact I've met who I've met, the kind of people who ask to work with me and the types of projects I get to do. You have choice, the lack of which is one of my bugbears in life. I like creating as much choice for myself as possible."
NCRV TV GUIDE 02/21/04 (translated from Dutch to English):
- In London Lewis can still do his grocery-shopping without difficulties, but that will soon change. ...
- When Damian Lewis was in his second year of drama-school, he and two fellow-students took the boat to Amsterdam. Lewis (laughing): "Guess what we did there ... I still remember on the way over there we were sitting all three on deck in the middle of the night gazing at the stars and we shouted in a romantic way that we were the new generation of actors and we were going to change everything, stuff like that. I would like to say that that really happened, but I think it didn't quite go that way. ..."
- He is self-confident, sexy and certainly not afraid of Hollywood but doesn't want to be "sold as the newest sportscar!" He refused a nice role in Black Hawk Down in favour of The Forsyte Saga.
- For an actor it is always fun to play the bad guy. Was this also the case? "Soames has something petty and ugly, something I could only shake of with some alcohol at the end of the day. But I didn't hate him, if I did I couldn't have played him. In the book he is a complex personality; in the BBC-series from 1967 he was evil and Irene was only the victim. We wanted to show some more sides to him. Even if no one likes Soames -- he is a bastard, a racist, a sexist, a snob -- then still you should be able to understand his obsession for that woman and how it destroys his life."
- So, there is still some good in him? "Soames is evil, but I think, even he, has the right of some form of forgiveness. But saying that, I do believe that absolute evil does exist. I used to think that there was always an explanation that would justify or make it understandable why someone does something, how bad it was. But take Eichmann for instance ... how logical his development was, in the end he does something pure evil in a Biblical sense. Soames isn't like that. His problem is that he only understands the world in terms of "possession" and "material wealth," not in an emotional or spiritual sense. That's how his relationship with Irene is. He builds a house for her; he tries to buy her love. He thinks it works that way, because he thinks it is the proper way to handle things. But she rejects him from the beginning. She doesn't love him, she should have never married him. Out of frustration he forces himself on her. That's called rape in a marriage, but in those days it wasn't seen that way. A man had the right to force himself on his wife; it was the duty of the wife to have his children."
- You come from a good background. You were at Eton, where Prince William and Prince Harry got their education. A cricket ball broke your nose. Did you learn the Forsyte world there? "Eton has the reputation to be the center of everything of wealth, power, nobility and privilege, but Eton isn't that at all. It's a boarding-school, so your life and time is strictly in order, but otherwise I thought it to be a free space, with liberal ideas, not at all Victorian. I did lots of theatre there, even performed Nicholas Nickleby there, started my own group and that was stimulated by the school. It was at Eton that I decided to become an actor. I think the Princes did like it there. Besides I don't think they were bothered with a shilling or two more, like I was. As for the cricket ball, yes, I did break my nose. ..."
- Soames is just like Major Winters in Band of Brothers: an introverted, closed man. Is that a coincidence, or do those roles just fit you? "I think I'm much more extrovert than Soames or Winters, but I do have the urge to bottle everything up, so maybe there is that similarity in my play. It's obvious that acting is a form of free therapy. You sure learn a lot about yourself by acting. Maybe I am the right man to play frustrated, tangled up loners!"
- You met the real Major Winters, now 85. How was he, and what did he say about your role? "He is a simple and very direct man. Winters has a religious background; he was very suspicious from the beginning; had to be reassured that Spielberg wasn't going to Hollywood or sugar his story. Everything is realistic, from Normandy to Berchtesgaden. I thought it was brilliant. Winters did loosen up along the way and when he saw the result he loved it!"
- In one of the last episodes, Winters and his men discover a concentration camp. "It was unbelievably reconstructed and awful, very shocking -- and that shock came directly on camera."
- How much has this affected your view on war and military in general? "Warriors is maybe my favourite piece, a fantastic example of how drama can work at its very best -- on a low fire, slow with slink camerawork in a semi-documentary style. It strengthens your belief that war has to be avoided at all costs, because the human price is too high. It doesn't matter how many strategies, rules and systems you make, when you find yourself in the middle of it, it's always chaos! That was sure the case for the soldiers in Bosnia where their instructions were not really clear, they didn't know what and what not to do. All of those young men who were sent there had to watch while the most horrendous cruelties took place. Most of them came back with a huge trauma. Warriors also tells how they were let down and abandoned by the army when they came back, because the army refused to acknowledge that there was a problem. I met the former commanding officer of the UNHCR in Kosovo, general sir Michael Jackson a few times. A fascinating man, a real fire-eater! We now get along friendly, but when we first met we both had a few drinks too many and almost got into a fight! He attacked the movie vigorously: 'Artists! You don't know really what it is like. ...' Because of Warriors and Band of Brothers I thought I did know how it really is and we got into a heavy discussion. Jackson said: 'I'm a soldier. I know what war is. I know what it costs.' Meanwhile the army does recognize post-traumatic stress syndrome and that people have to be treated for it. 'But it's still the cruel reality,' said Jackson, 'that you should not care for those people too much, acknowledge that they could develop a trauma. You have to deny it for the morale and the self-confidence of the soldiers still on the battlefield.' Astonishing, that with these roles I played I could talk to him about this. I just knew how 'the soldier' changed since WWII. It has become a different species."
EVENING STANDARD, 07/17/04:
- Damian Lewis was hither to not known for his dance moves, but after the Sargent Cancer Research bash at the Sanderson hotel last week he will forever be. A whole
host of beautiful ladies made their way into his dance routine ... as fellow guests ... looked on in awe at the prowess of the John Travolta-for-our-times. A raffle played its part in the proceedings, of course. But dancing lessons from Mr. Lewis were regrettably not up for grabs.
- Speaking of flesh, he's quite happy exposing his. Not surprising, considering the shape he's in. (Small-hipped, expanding to wide shoulders, I note, just in case you wondered.) Stripping off as we get ready for the shoot, he gathers three of our female crew about him to canvas opinions on what he should wear. This is a man comfortable in his own skin but, rightly or wrongly, he does have a rather debonair image. I decide to catch him off guard and put it to him that he's not the sort of man you'd expect to hear went to a friend's wedding and fell into a pond right up to his middle, then returned to the wedding marquee sporting a wet-shirt-and-pond-weed Mr. Darcy look. I've stumped him. Blushing, he pauses for a while, obviously racking his brains. "I haven't said that anywhere else, have I? You've actually spoken to someone about that, haven't you?" I confess I have. "That's funny," he laughs at my having found him out. "I'd had a bit to drink. The wedding was in the countryside in this family's beautiful garden. They had lit-up trees and big rhododendrons and all that sort of stuff -- it looked beautiful -- but it just meant where you were walking was completely dark. At least that's my excuse. It was actually tied in with a massive row I was having with someone at the time. I went stomping off drunkenly to look for her and I just walked into a pond up to my middle. Thankfully, I was drunk enough to go back into the marquee completely soaked and just grin at everyone."
- Down to earth he is, but spend a short time with Damian Lewis and you realise he says nothing lightly. Every one of his replies is considered and deliberate. In response to each of my questions he pauses, considering its whole meaning before carefully answering. You get the impression he would never say anything he didn't mean. "I think my biggest fault is that I try to control environments that I'm in," he confesses. "I think I suffer from that in life generally. Anything I've done must be seen to be the appropriate thing, the right thing, the thing that people admire or respect."
- "When big decisions present themselves," he continues, "I prevaricate. It takes me forever to come to a decision because I have to absolutely thrash it out in every possible way. I do it with myself, and I'll definitely use friends and family as sounding boards. I find decision-making utterly debilitating because it takes me such a long time. And it stultifies me. I can't function properly when I've got huge choices to make."
- "I always wanted to be an actor," he continues. "I didn't know until I was 16 that I was actually going to do it, pursue it professionally and really have a crack at it. But my parents were lovely and liberal and supportive and said: 'Go for it. We'll support that decision.' This may sound pretentious," he apologises, "but it seemed inconceivable, really, that I would do anything else, other than what I'm doing. I would be crap at anything else."
- Born in London, and brought up in affluent St. John's Wood, Damian is the son of a successful reinsurance broker Watcyn, his late mother Charlotte's second husband. Her first husband died when Damian's sister Amanda was three and brother William was one. "I grew up with my parents always saying, 'We love you whatever, but you'll only disappoint yourself if you don't do the best you can.' I can't shake that off. That's at the root of my work ethic," he explains stretching his lean frame out on the sofa we're sharing.
- As we talk more about our families, I realise that not only do we share a west London upbringing, but that we have another shared link -- the loss of our mothers. Dropping his eyes, Damian pauses and then quietly explains his mum was killed in a car crash in India in 2001. "I got a phone call in the middle of the night, and went into shock and stayed there for a year. Mum took so much pride in my success. I just wish she could have seen more of it," he says, before adding, "Actually, I probably don't want to talk about it much," and excuses himself for a moment.
- So, with his film career going up a gear, could he imagine moving to LA full-time? "It would be difficult for me emotionally to leave London forever, being very much a Londoner and family-orientated," he answers, thoughtfully. "I like my friends and all of that sort of thing. I know this sounds a little self-righteous," he says, apologising for his view for the umpteenth time, "but there is something displacing about just always going off to the next thing on your own, without anyone you know. You have to be good socially or you have to be very self-contained and very happy with your own company, because it can be rather a lonely existence. So being at home is great."
- "When I've been in London and I'm about to fly off to another film set, there is a moment when I think, 'Why can't I just be here? Why don't I set up my own theatre company? Why don't I live in London and be in the town I grew up in and live here for a bit and enjoy it? Have a steady girlfriend, get all my friends round for dinner parties?' That does sound quite fun to me." But then, he admits, he is still too ambitious for that. He once said he thought it was too early in his career to turn down work "in order to be around for other people." Does he think that now? "I'm ambitious in the best sense of the word," he answers. "I'm ambitious for myself. Not in a comparative sense with others, not in a competitive way with others. I'm just ambitious for myself for me to be the best I can."
- "There's been a lot written about you and Kristen Davis, star of Sex And The City. Are you seeing each other?" He smirks, laughs and shakes his head. "No. I'm totally and utterly single. Yes, we're mates. We've emailed and chatted to each other -- but I've only met her two or three times."
- And if his fierce ambition means there isn't a constant companion in his life since splitting with Channel 4 news producer Katie Razzall, then he's determined to enjoy himself. "I have tremendous fun. But I know fun and profound happiness are probably two different things. I really believe that true happiness comes through actually denying yourself things. At some point one's ability to commit to something -- for example relationships, or a cause, or a job -- and to focus single-mindedly on one thing will give you a profounder experience of life. What that means is that you have to deny yourself trappings and temptations elsewhere in order to just focus on one thing." Smiling and fixing me with that famous lopsided grin, he finishes: "I don't do that denial thing at all well. But I suspect that is the way to be truly happy."
- Just as "Clean, Shaven" relied to a great extent on the creepy power lead actor Peter Greene brought to it, so does "Keane" rest squarely on the exceptional talent of Damian Lewis to put it across. Red-haired British-American thesp, who first came to prominence in "Band of Brothers," is onscreen here virtually every second expressing, to varying degrees, how unbearable it must be to be responsible for the disappearance of one's child.
- Watching Lewis so thoroughly inhabit the demented Keane, one can only wonder how an actor can live with such a character for weeks and weeks and maintain a semblance of sanity and contact with real life. Thesp amazingly manages to find nuances of character while running his engine above the emotional red line throughout. It's a resonant, haunting performance. Throughout, lenser John Foster's largely hand-held camera is focused either on Keane or what he's seeing, and pic's gritty look is part-and-parcel of this strong, raw work.
DAILY MIRROR, 09/25/04:
- "I'd love to be able to say, 'My name is Bond ... Ginger Bond,' but it's never going to happen. What I'd love to see is the Welsh wizard Ioan Gruffudd win the part. He's my good mate and he's brilliant. He'd definitely make the best Bond."
DAILY EXPRESS, 09/30/04:
- Damian Lewis is sick of being an appalling father. The actor has played bad dads three times now and is concerned this inadvertent typecasting will spill over into his personal life, if, or when, fatherhood beckons. "I play a very dysfunctional father," says Forsyte Saga star Damian, 33, of his forthcoming film Chromophobia. "It's actually a great cause for concern because this is the third time I've been a bad father. I'm hoping I'm not picking up bad habits for when I have to be a dad for real."
SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE, 09/04:
- [article title unknown; article on men's take on women's knickers, with several quotes from various people as to their favorite knickers]: "crisp white ones" - Damian Lewis
- Keane doesn't contain much in the way of a plot -- if you've seen Clean, Shaven, you probably have a good idea what to expect -- but that soon becomes irrelevant thanks to Lewis' astounding performance. Lewis, best known for his work in films like Dreamcatcher and various British mini-series, is an absolute revelation as the title character and he delivers a daring and completely riveting performance. It's the sort of role most actors would kill for, though very few would be able to disappear into it as effectively and thoroughly as Lewis. Keane is one of those rare movies that rattles around in your head long after the credits have rolled, and if there were any justice, both Kerrigan and Lewis would receive Academy Awards for their work here.
- Commenting on location [while filming Chromophobia], Damian said: "London where I grew up and feel
passionate about, is fantastic when it's shot well. We don't have the light here that you get in New York or other major cities in the world but when it's shot well it's fantastic. It's incredibly filmic."
- You have classical training, with theater experience. Why do you think British actors are so popular in the movie industry? "Working in theater gives you a discipline that makes a lot of British actors good to work with. A lot of American actors don't have the theater discipline, but what American actors have is a naturalistic way of being. There is something that an English person can bring; an old-fashioned moral quality to the work. That's partly to do with being English, maybe, and with having to do classical theater where you're dealing with things like Greek tragedy, with themes bigger than ourselves, moral themes, ethical issues, betrayal and trust, love, murder of one's own family and the vengeance of the gods. Maybe this makes you think differently as an actor and you bring that to a film. I'm not sure. ..."
- What are your expectations for your career in film? "If, for example, there are 50 films being made in [a month], five of those films will be good, probably. The other 45 will be OK, some terrible. If you want to work all year round in films, you're not always going to get the good ones. So you find yourself doing work that you don't always believe in fully but you're doing it because you want to be a film actor. This is something that is very confusing for me. If I can, I only want to do films I believe in. If that means there are no films because all the good films are being done by someone else, then maybe I just won't work and I'll develop my own projects or do some theater. But that's in an ideal world. I enjoy the fact that I'm becoming a bit better known internationally, because it gives you more choice. But I have always said, ever since I was in drama school, that I don't want to be a 45-year-old man walking into the office of a 25-year-old director and saying, 'Please, can you give me a job?' I want to have control, be my own boss, and that means being able to make your own choices. So that's what's good about what is happening now, because it gives [me] more power, for myself. But do I want total control? Do I want to be Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks? I don't know if I want to be that famous, or if I'll have the opportunity. If ever that opportunity came to me, I don't know what I would do."
DAILY MIRROR, 11/01/04:
- "Saw Damian Lewis cycling through a red light at the Oxford St end of Charing Cross Road ... have to say ... very nice ass!" -- Jonnyboy122 from London, November 1, 2004.
Read more of The Damian Digest:
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