Why Damian Lewis should play Steve McQueen (UPDATE)

UPDATE: Cannes Film Festival 2015 starts this week and with it comes the possibility of learning important particulars about a certain dramatic feature length biopic on the life of Steve McQueen. We already know that a documentary about Steve McQueen’s experiences filming the racing film Le Mans is being screened at Cannes. We can only imagine that an announcement about a new biopic, still in the infancy of development, if there is an announcement at all, will be made around the screening of The Man and Le Mans.

I posted a while back about why Damian Lewis would make the perfect Steve McQueen. There’s no end to the visual evidence in support of my argument, so I’ve found more to share.

The head of the production company with rights to Steve Terrill’s biography of Steve McQueen, Graham Kaye, has stated online that the cast and director of the film is to be announced at Cannes. Now, he didn’t specify which year, and, last we heard, they were still looking for a screenwriter.

I’m reading Terrill’s book and I can tell it’s not going to be an easy one to translate onscreen. It has a deeply psychological focus and follows McQueen’s life in terms of not just events, but his emotional growth, or lack thereof.

Steve McQueen was a troubled young man. He grew up basically on his own, his parents either absent or grossly unreliable. He stumbled into acting almost accidentally, and though he was drawn to it and wanted to keep doing it, he never quite took it seriously as a profession. Or rather, maybe he took it too seriously, as the one and only life boat he had, the one and only thing he could do well enough to get the attention and approval the boy in him desperately needed.

Steve McQueen’s upbringing and his experiences as an actor could not be any more different than what we know of how Damian Lewis was brought up and came to the profession. In this respect, McQueen and Damian Lewis are polar opposites. Nonetheless, we’ve seen what Damian Lewis can do with playing emotion. We’ve seen, most recently as his turn as Henry VIII, what Damian Lewis can do to show subliminal damage and the armor a man builds up to protect himself from himself.

Graham Kaye has hinted that this new story about McQueen will disclose something new about his life, something that didn’t become common knowledge even after he died. I haven’t gotten to that part in the biography, but I can intuit by Kaye’s and others’ description of that event, that if Damian Lewis gets his hands on the material there’s no telling how far he’ll take it.

So here it is:

Top five reasons Damian Lewis MUST be considered to play Steve McQueen

1) Because he can. Damian Lewis can play American flawlessly. He can play repressed damaged Americans even more flawlessly. He makes the effort to thoughtfully understand the psychology of the roles he’s playing. He has an organic “real” look to him, coupled with an unparalleled plasticity, which allows him to become ANYBODY right before our eyes.


2) In their most notable roles, both Damian Lewis and Steve McQueen have played soldiers, prisoners, men on the fringes of polite society. Both Damian Lewis and Steve McQueen like cars. And they both look great on motorcycles and behind the wheels of nice automobiles.


source: Life Magazine, RSA Films
source: Columbia Pictures, Showtime


3) Damian Lewis has freckles! He has vivid blue eyes, the same ruddy complexion, the same hair. He’s the same height. (okay DL is 3 inches taller, but who’s counting) Of course, playing a historical figure is about more than physical resemblance. But, you have to admit: here, the resemblance is extraordinary. They also seem to have the same sense of style, the kind that never goes out of style.
4) They even have the same slack-jawed expression when they look at the women they love.



Steve McQueen with his wife of 16 years Neile Adams. Damian Lewis with his wife Helen McCrory. source: Life Magazine, British Vogue


5) Because he can.
This has been a deliciously busy year for our guy. Taking a star turn in the Steve McQueen biopic would be the perfect project with which Damian Lewis can start 2016.


We aren’t the first to note the similarities. Damian Lewis has himself acknowledged that special something:  “I guess I’m just good at playing repressed individuals. I’m lucky because those are often the roles that catch people’s eyes. It’s the Steve McQueen element, all that bubbling energy bottled up inside. It’s a very compelling quality on the screen. I’ve been lucky that I seem to be able to pull it off.”

Out of context, this sounds like a brag. It may be, but, darn if it ain’t the truth. Damian Lewis knows himself. He doesn’t have an “oh shucks” attitude about where he’s landed. Sure, a lot of success is sheer luck and being at the right place at the right time, but Damian Lewis seems like a bloke who has the self-knowledge and insight to know what kind of roles he is drawn to and made to play.

Ergo, let the evidence show, the role of Steve McQueen is one that Damian Lewis is made to play.

14 thoughts on “Why Damian Lewis should play Steve McQueen (UPDATE)”

  1. I have always thought there is a close resemblance between Kevin Costner and Steve McQueen but after reading this post, I couldn’t agree with you more. ( Maybe this also explains Damianista’s recent divorce from KC and her marriage with DL, huh?) I also should be honest, when I heard about the McQueen project for the first time, my favorite actor for the role was Ryan Gosling. If you don’t know him well, you might think I have a very shallow taste but Ryan Gosling is more than just a pretty face and body and he can be very versatile with his roles too…. If you don’t believe me, I would strongly recommend you to watch ‘The Believer’, ‘Half Nelson’, ‘Lars and The Real Girl’, Blue Valentine, Drive….( Ok Ok I shut up, I know I am in DL Land and the main subject is not my ex husband Mr Gooseberry:-)

    However Damian is the GUY without a doubt. The resemblance is uncanny and he will resurrect King Mcqueen with his look and also emotional acting. By the way, I didn’t know he had a troubled childhood; I actually do not know anything about young Damian… Maybe one of you should write about this aspect of him or have you already??

    1. Thank you, Gozde! I think all three are closely connected physically – I completely agree. I think it all goes to that Sunday afternoon when I was 8-9 and watched Great Escape! KC is of course too old to play SM now, and I have to admit he’s not as good an actor as DL. Ryan Gosling is great, yes I watched Blue Valentine and Drive, and man, he is good. I just think he’s a bit on the young side to play SMQ when he’s in his late 40s though – because the book that the movie will be based on is about the last years of his life. McQueen had a troubled childhood, Lewis had a very nice childhood on Abbey Road. I had written a little fun trivia here, you may like it: http://www.fanfunwithdamianlewis.com/?p=2428

    2. Seem to have missed this comment the first time around. Yes, I agree, Ryan Gosling is great! That film he did with Michelle Williams…was it Blue Valentine? Such beautiful work, by them both.
      It’s been nearly a year since this post and we’re consistently seeing tweets about the Damian Steve McQueen resemblance. Have no idea what the hold up is to getting the biopic made, but, I, for one, cannot imagine anyone else but Damian in the role!
      Thanks for visiting and for your comment. 🙂

  2. I absolutely agree with you Damianista. Baby Goose is still so young to be a 40 something SMQ character in this movie; he doesn’t have enough wrinkles on his face… Every wrinkle is a new chapter in men’s life so he still needs to be ripen:-) But let me give him a credit from here; he definitely has a future potential…And try to watch The Believer; you will love Danny Balint and his extremely controversial character…. Maybe Ryan will have the role of 50 something DL one day, who knows:-)… After reading this post, I have checked some more photos of SMQ and you are all so right; resemblance is almost scary. Even they share the same distinct deep smile lines; blimey;-)

    1. Hahaha thank you so much – and I love your description of wrinkles on a man’s face – poetic! Let’s just hope the producers agree with us, too — fingers crossed! Promise I’ll watch The Believer!

  3. Hi! I just regret that nowadays I’ve not the proficiency in English Language – i’d like to have – to comment what was posted about McQueen’ bio and SM and DL (love!) resemblance. I think it’s not only about physical characteristics, but is also about an way of acting and bring “life” to complex characters. McQueen seemed to be an anxious man (I did not read his biography…yet) and in a certain way he “showed” this, through his performances. He was a reserved man and there was a kind of suffering mood on his way of acting. Am I quite right? Damian seems a lucky and a happy man, and he is always joking and let people laugh (would it be?), but he has a great and versatile talent, that ables him to play any character on a screen play, on stage or movie. I’m a Brazilian fan of Damian Lewis, as “Fan Fun with Damian Lewis” knows, and I loved the post about McQueen’ biography and – possible – motion picture. From “Homeland Barrie”, with Iza Silveira.

    1. Branca, welcome to the blog – so great to have you here! You know me as Fan Fun with Damian Lewis, I am Damianista, and I have my partners JaniaJania, Bookworm and Misfit also on the blog. You write perfectly in English and we would be delighted to have your comments here on the blog and Facebook!!! JaniaJania is currently reading the book the movie will be based on, so she knows more than I do about SMQ. As far as I know, you are right he was an anxious man, and with his family, he was a bit of a bully, too, I understand. He had a troubled youth, and it reflected in his personal life — exactly opposite of Damian who had a nice childhood, is a lovely man who makes people feel good and laugh and has a very nice, happy life we all admire! But he is so versatile that he can very easily play a troubled man on screen, be it Steve McQueen or Nicholas Brody 🙂 Let’s see how things will turn out about this movie, but we nominate Damian Lewis to play Steve McQueen – go, Damian! So happy to see we are all from different places and meet here to share the love for DL! Many thanks and big hugs! Big, big, big hugs to you and Iza and the “Homeland Barrie” group in Brazil!!!!

      1. I echo the warm welcome to you Branca. There have been a few tales about SMcQ’s mood, ego and him being difficult to work with. This may be true and there could be many reasons for it that others simply wishing to deride the man’s character do not wish to consider. Putting that aside though, one thing that cannot be denied, is that he is a fantastic actor.

    2. Welcome to our blog Branca! Yes, you’re absolutely right about their upbringing and personalities being so different. We’ve seen Damian do many characters that are nothing like him in real life. I’m pretty confident he is THE ACTOR who will come the closest to nailing the Steve McQueen personality and aesthetic. At this point, it’s difficult to even imagine anyone else in the part. 🙂 We’re waiting with bated breath for the final casting decisions to be announced, perhaps next week at Cannes, or perhaps later. And keeping our fingers crossed for Damian (granted he wants the part).

  4. Regret my ignorance, but I`ve only recently learnt about Steve McQueen, and your article is a quality addition to my very basic knowledge. You have excellent take how Mr Damian Lewis would be perfect for this role: psychologically complex, complicated, somewhat even twisted personalities are the protagonists that he played brilliantly. And the physical resemblance is also amazing (yet I am not sure it plays a key role).

    We wait however how successful “Billions” start and proceed (I want to believe there will be more than one season:-), and whether Daniel Craig steps down and Mr Lewis is chosen to be the next Bond…

    PS Talking about James Bond, whenever I read some biographies of his possible prototype or spies of similar stories (like Yeo-Thomas or Dušan Popov) I constantly have an image how Mr Damian Lewis would play them in a movie – regardless of physical resemblance:-) Being such a brilliant actor he must be offered a lot of strong screenplays/projects and interesting parts to play.
    Thanks again for your interesting blog – I am as much fun of it as of our favourite actor!

    1. Thank you for reading and for your very kind comment!:)
      I have a sneaking suspicion that Billions will go on for more than one season too. But, yes, I too have imagined Damian in so many possible roles…the poor guy would never get any time off if we had anything to say about it.:) I’m not familiar with the spy stories you mention: will be looking them up! Speaking of spy stories, we recently learned some good news on a spy story in which Damian had a role: Our Kind of Traitor. I’ll be posting about that one this week. Stay tuned!

    2. Hi Anita! We tweeted each other on Twitter, but I also wanted to connect here and thank you for your lovely compliment and great feedback! Damian is at such a wonderful place in his career at this moment, and yes, he’s such a brilliant actor that it’s just so exciting to think about the possibilities that may come his way — and we will be EXTREMELY HAPPY to think, talk and write about them! Thanks so much for visiting and reading us! <3

  5. However, I do not want much,see Damian in the next Bond, so I’d love to, see him as Steeve McQueen, he would make a wonderful Steeve, because he’s kind of the same kind of actor, extremely talented and certainly, makeup accentuate the resemblance!
    Fingers crossed!!

    1. Hi Monique, oh yes, as much as their real lives are galaxies away from each other, Damian is THE guy that would do justice in bringing Steve McQueen to big screen. He’s the one that can play a guy sort of damaged by his tough childhood and constantly struggling against his inner demons. I really hope the producers also see what we have already seen! But you know these things are not always just about talent – networking is probably a huge chunk of business in Hollywood. But yes, fingers crossed all the way. Much love <3

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