We’re going way back today to 1993, to a 22-year old Damian Lewis in the Birmingham REP Production of Rope.
Before getting deep into the production, let’s just live here for a second… Damian Lewis is today an internationally known star at 44. But, one can’t help wondering what his dreams and aspirations were when he was 22 — literally half of his current age!
Damian tells in an interview with Cherwell how he dreamed of a future in theater: “At drama school, all my influences were in the theatre, not in film and TV. I remember standing on the prow of a ship one year heading over to Amsterdam with one of my best friends, and talking about how we were going to be the next generation of theatre actors.”
Then he talks about his theatre education at Guildhall, his career aspirations at the time as well as his trip to Amsterdam also on Times Talks London — here is a short clip that I think you will LOVE!
I could just imagine a young Damian with his friend on the prow of a ship having a Leo-style “I am the King of the World” moment! That’s exactly how you feel like at 22, don’t you? And, just imagining THAT puts a big smile on my face 😀
Damian continues: “It was all very romantic – all we wanted was to be at the National, the Donmar, The Royal Court. And romantically theatre still holds a place in my affections, but after Band of Brothers I got invited into this world I knew very little about, and that went on for the next ten years. And the roles I was being offered and the people I was being asked to work with were so exciting that I continued to take work in film and TV, and I look back and wish there’d been more time for theatre.”
As much as I LOVED Damian on stage in American Buffalo, and sympathize with his wish “there’d been more time for theatre” I just cannot (selfishly!) thank enough for his TV and film work. I honestly believe that nothing can beat LIVE theater. However, it is a hard fact that only a limited number of fans can see their favorite actor on stage for so many different reasons. TV and film work on the other hand give us (almost) equal access to our favorite actor and I love it!
Now on to our 22 year old Damian… A fresh graduate from Guildhall School of Music and Drama, in 1993, Damian Lewis performed as Wyndham Brandon in a Birmingham REP production of Rope, a 1929 British play by Patrick Hamilton, between April 16, 1993 through May 15, 1993.
The play is set on the first floor of a house in Mayfair, London in 1929. The story, thought to be based loosely on a real life murder case, concerns two young university students, Wyndham Brandon and Charles Granillo (whom Brandon calls “Granno”), who have murdered fellow student Ronald Kentley as an expression of their supposed intellectual superiority. At the beginning of the play, they hide Kentley’s body in a chest. They proceed to host a party for his friends and family at which the chest containing his corpse is used to serve a buffet.
You may remember Alfred Hitchcock’s movie version of Rope, where, for some reason, the names of main characters were different — for example, Wyndham Brandon was names Brandon Shaw. Hitchcock’s version is still the only film version of the play to date and it is classic Hitchcock!
Here is the information on the young actor in the Playbill… Awww 🙂
Just months later, Matt Wolf in a New York Times article looking for the next Ralph Fiennes and next Hugh Grant among a bunch of young British actors, speaks very highly of now 23 year old Damian:
“Damian Lewis is, at 23, the youngest of the lot and a 1993 graduate of London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Nonetheless, he played an acclaimed Hamlet over the summer in Regent’s Park… London critics have been impressed with what they describe as his “flaming red hair” and “heroic bones.” Before “Hamlet,” he was a dashing Horace in Moliere’s “School for Wives” in London; other stage credits include Romeo and the well-heeled young psychopath in Patrick Hamilton’s “Rope,” both in Birmingham. Jonathan Kent, who directed “The School for Wives,” says, “Damian has a sort of flair and panache rare for a British actor.
Last month Mr. Lewis was chosen to play Laertes to Mr. Fiennes’s Hamlet in the much-anticipated Almeida production, directed by Mr. Kent. It opens in London in February and moves to Broadway in April.”
I can imagine another “I am the King of the World” moment here! And, Damian certainly looks the part!
Let me give you a funny trivia in closing! You saw the Times Talks clip at the beginning of the post, right? But do you know the guy that interviews Damian there? Well, he is… Matt Wolf, the theater critic that wrote the above New York Times article speaking highly of a 23 year old Damian… Hehe. 20 years later, he should probably be saying to himself here: “I knew it!” Hats off, sir!