Today’s throwback takes us to, probably, the most famous star-crossed lovers in history… Oh, no, sorry, I am not talking about Carrie and Brody 😀
Damian Lewis is no stranger to Shakespeare. He played Romeo in Birmingham Rep’s Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet in Hamlet in the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, London in 1993 and 1994, respectively, as a fresh graduate of Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Then he did his Broadway debut as Laertes to Ralph Fiennes’ Hamlet in Almeida Theatre’s production in 1995. Damian also performed as Posthumous in Cymbeline and Don John in Much Ado About Nothing with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also brought to life a lovely Benedick on BBC’s Shakespeare Retold: Much Ado About Nothing. Damian took on the role of Lord Capulet in a 2013 big screen adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Damian kicked off Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday Celebrations in 2014 at Guildhall Library reading the great man’s first five sonnets and he gave a wonderful performance of Mark Antony’s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” speech from Julius Ceasar in The Guardian‘s Shakespeare Solos in 2016.
We’re talking Romeo and Juliet today.
Well, first of all, Damian loves the story. It turns out he sometimes tells Shakespeare to his kids as bed time stories and guess what? He started off with Romeo and Juliet. Why?
“…because I thought that’s quite a sweet love story between two young children. By the end, they were both in floods of tears. I should have considered a more child-friendly ending. Instead, they now know – and hate – Romeo and Juliet. Well done me.”
And, for the record, I am with Manon and Gulliver on this one! 🙂
Damian Lewis played Romeo to Josette Bushell-Mingo‘s Juliet in a Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Gwenda Hughes, at Birmingham Rep in 1993.
Look at this young stage couple and note that this poster is in the fantastic Victoria and Albert Museum collection!
When we were extremely lucky to visit Damian after his brilliant performance in The Goat, JaniaJania and I gave him a gift: a poster made of the playbill covers of every stage production he has been in from Romeo and Juliet in 1993 to The Goat in 2017.
Damian loved the poster and said it was great timing because he was looking for things to hang on his walls after a renovation and that this poster would be going right up in his room 🙂
I also brought over all of the playbills I was able to find in my months-long search from Amazon to eBay to rare theatre program stores in the UK and gave those to Damian along with the poster. And I admit I was delighted to find out he did not have any of them!
As he flipped through some of the playbills, Damian sighed seeing himself in Romeo and Juliet. And when JaniaJania could not help say “You were just a baby!” he said, “Yes, the same age Archie (who plays his son in The Goat) is now.” Twenty-two to be precise. A baby indeed.
Damian talks about this production of Romeo and Juliet at his SAG-AFTRA interview:
“That was a baptism by fire particularly because I found myself in a feminist production of Romeo and Juliet with a Juliet who was more man than I was at that age. She was stunning, stunning, beautiful woman called Josette Bushell-Mingo. She was 7-8 years older than me, she had more muscles than me and she knew more about life than me. And she ate me for breakfast every time She was more man than mwe went on stage. She was beautiful and wonderful and I was callow, and innocent and useless.”
And, hey, having mentioned our modern day star-crossed lovers, Carrie and Brody, at the beginning… A fun fact is that, as a 22 year old Damian Lewis played Romeo on stage, a 17 year old Claire Danes played Juliet in the 1996 film to Leonardo Caprio’s Romeo!
Fast forward. 20 years. Damian Lewis now plays Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father, on a 2013 big screen adaptation directed by Julian Fellowees aka Mr. Downton Abbey!
Here’s a clip in which Damian talks about his character Lord Capulet:
To be honest with you, the movie did not open to great reviews… However, NY Times critic Manohla Dargis talks about “an outstanding Damian Lewis as Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father. Mr. Lewis persuasively plays the fool when need be, only to rise up in a foaming rage, a forceful reminder that, yes, the play is the thing — but a great interpreter helps.”
Cheers to our GREAT interpreter!
And, one fun surprise in THIS Romeo and Juliet is one particular Damian Lewis co-star and yet another GREAT interpreter:
We know Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti have been going head-to-head in Billions… But it seems the duo started the battle way before 🙂 In Romeo and Juliet, Damian Lewis plays Lord Capulet who is forcing his daughter to marry Paris where as Paul Giamatti plays Friar Lawrence who secretly marries off Juliet to Romeo 😀
Romeo & Juliet is available on Amazon, Netflix and iTunes and Billions is returning to Showtime for its fourth season sometime in 2019! It seems Bobby and Chuck are now the BFFs of the show… And, friends or foes on the show, we know the duo has been having a ball on set with some bromance blossoming! We have their confession 🙂 ENJOY!