Damian Lewis and My Homeland

If you have been following this blog for some time,  you certainly know about my obsession with Homeland and Brody in particular. And so you probably think this post is yet another one about my all-time favorite fictional character…

Well, you’re wrong! 🙂

This post is about Damian Lewis and My Homeland – the country that I was born and raised in: Turkey. I have been inspired to write this post in London this summer when Damian signed the set list I stole from the Omeara stage in Turkish:

“Tesekkur, Bahar.” (“Thanks, Bahar.”)

I have been living in the US for more than two decades and I am probably more American in some ways now than I am Turkish, but Turkey is geographically and culturally where I am coming from. And Damian, while I do not think he has ever filmed on location in Turkey, portrayed characters who wanted to go to Turkey, or spent time there, and even in my hometown Izmir, and who sometimes even spoke the language! And not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times!

So here I am – visiting the Damian Lewis characters who have links to  my Homeland in  chronological order!

The first character does not only have links to my homeland, but also my hometown!

We meet Damian’s character Norman Harris in Smyrna, Turkey in the beautiful Greek movie Brides (Nyfes). I wrote about it earlier here but in case you missed it, I am from Smyrna (Izmir in modern day Turkey), born and raised: a beautiful city on Turkey’s West Coast with a rich Greek heritage that reflects itself in all ways of life which I LOVE. My mom still lives in Izmir and I visit my hometown every summer.

So Norman is supposedly – they filmed the entire movie on location in Greece – in my hometown at the beginning  of the movie. He is humming a Turkish folk song “Katibim” when we first see him  and the first words he speaks in the movie are in Turkish!

“Cocuklar! (Hey, Kids!)”

May I just say it is so sweet to hear Damian say a word in my native tongue? He plays with the children and ties a piece of cloth to a wishing tree with them! We find out he is in Smyrna for work, taking war photos from the Greco – Turkish war. However, they find his photos “too artsy to publish” and so Norman, quite frustrated, sells his camera to a colleague and is ready to board on a ship that will take him back home to Detroit, and to his troubled marriage.

The ship S.S. Alexander that will take Norman to New York is full of “mail-order brides” going to America for arranged marriages, a little known, true story. These young women, some of whom are barely teenagers – Greek, Turkish, Russian, Armenian – marry pictures in front a priest or an imam and then board on a ship to go meet their new husbands in America.

source: popcorn-time-free.com
source: popcorn-time-free.com

One of these brides is Niki (Haralabidou), a young seamstress from Samothrace, a Greek Island in Northern Aegean Sea. She is one of seven cousins at marrying age  – all orphans who need to marry to survive financially and there are not a lot of men left for them to marry because of the on-going war.


Well… Niki catches Norman’s eye before they board on S. S. Alexander. As he is killing time at a coffee shop waiting to board, Norman notices this young woman and gives her a look that all of us would want some guy to give us in our lifetimes 🙂 Even the Turkish military march being played at the moment – a constant reminder of the war and its consequences such as orphans, poverty and mail-order brides – cannot spoil the FIRST LOOK between the two of them. And the good news is you can watch the movie in its entirety in Greek/English with English subtitles on YouTube here.

The second character Damian brings to life and that has links to Turkey is Gareth Brennan in Will, a football movie Damian made in 2011.  The story is centered around Liverpool playing in the 2005 Champions League Final Match in  Istanbul, Turkey!

source: anfield-online.co.uk

Will is about the lengths people are willing to go for the love of the game. It is a sweet coming-of-age children’s tale featuring cameos from Liverpool legends Kenny DalglishSteven Gerrard and JamieCarragher.

11-year old Will Brennan (Perry Eggleton) is Liverpool’s number one fan who knows the club trivia by heart! Will stays at a boarding school in Kent because his dad Gareth (Damian Lewis) is emotionally not able to take care of him following his mother’s death. And Gareth (Damian Lewis) showing up, unexpectedly, with tickets to 2005 Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan in Istanbul makes Will the happiest kid in the world! Well, only briefly… When the tragedy strikes, Will tackles it by setting out on his own to honor his father’s memory and make his own dream come true! On the road, Will meets Alek, a former footballer who had his own reasons to quit the sport. Inspired by Will’s story, Alek decides to help him and the two make the journey together. Here is the movie trailer:

The Champions League Final in the movie is the NOW HISTORIC 2005 UEFA Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul — one of the greatest comebacks in the history of football! And, on May 25 2005, Damian was watching THAT MATCH, too, in a London pub, with friends. And by the end of the first half, Liverpool was down by three goals. So was Damian.

source: wikipedia

He tells in an interview with the Independent:

“I was watching the game in a pub in Soho and I left at half-time, just going ‘Oh bloody hell, this is a disaster’. I had a drink with a friend in a pub around the corner, and my friend said to me, ‘Are you daft? Get back into the pub and watch the second half.’ So ten minutes into the second half I returned in time to watch them stick three goals in 15 minutes.”

Damian was thrilled to be making Will with his Anfield heroes but also was a bit disappointed that he was not in any scenes with Dalglish, Gerrard and Carragher.

source: dailyrecord.co.uk
source: dailyrecord.co.uk

In an interview with the Daily Record, 2011, he says:

“I am a big fan of Liverpool and I enjoyed the idea of being in a film that features the club so strongly. I also responded to the father/son story, which is a tearjerker…

I thought I was going to act with Steve Gerrard, who is one of my all-time heroes and Jamie Carragher, but I was in completely different parts of the movie and we did not come across each other.”

The third character that has strong links to Turkey is Charles (Richard) Doughty-Wylie, a real life person that Damian brings to life in the movie Queen of the Desert.

Queen of the Desert is a biopic of Gertrude Bell, a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, political attaché and a spy for the British Empire in the Middle East in the early 20th century. She shaped the politics of the Middle East and drew up the borders of modern Jordan as well as Iraq. Think of more or less  a female Lawrence of Arabia.

As Nicole Kidman stars as Gertrude Bell, Damian Lewis takes on the role of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Wylie-Doughty, who is considered to be the love of Bell’s life. He was married, and he and Bell  had an unconsummated relationship and exchanged love letters between 1913-15 until his death.

Lt. Colonel Charles Hotham Montagu Doughty-Wylie was the British Consul in Mersina (Mersin in modern Turkey) Ottoman Empire during the Young Turks Revolution in 1909. When the Armenian Massacres started along with the revolution, according to Richard Bell-Davies, who wrote in his autobiography, Sailor in the Air, it was largely due to the efforts of Doughty-Wylie that these were halted in Mersin. Doughty-Wylie then went to Adana, a neighboring city, and persuaded the governor of the city to give him a small escort of Ottoman troops and was able to restore order there as well. Mrs. Doughty-Wylie turned part of the dragoman’s house into a hospital for wounded Armenians. Newspaper reports of the period record that Doughty-Wylie was shot in the arm, while trying to prevent these massacres.

Doughty-Wylie with his wife, source: Geliboluyuanlamak.com
Doughty-Wylie with his wife, source: Geliboluyuanlamak.com

From what I have read on Doughty-Wylie’s marriage, my impression is that this man was attracted to strong and independent women, and his wife was no exception: “Doughty-Wylie married in 1904 to Lilian Adams, daughter of John Wylie of Westcliff Hall, Hampshire, and widow of the late Lieutenant Henry Adams of the Indian Medical Service, who had changed his name by deed poll to Adams-Wylie on their marriage. Charles Doughty in turn also added his wife’s name to his own surname on their marriage. The couple honeymooned on the North West Frontier of India, returning to England via Baghdad, Babylon and Constantinople. Mrs. Doughty-Wylie joined in her husband’s relief work during the Balkan War in 1913 and superintended the management of Red Cross Hospitals at Constantinople.”

So, Doughty-Wylie lived and worked in Turkey as the British Consul, but he also died there, on April 26, 1915, at age 46, in Gallipoli, during the WWI. And these bad news about the man she loves reach Gertrude Bell, portrayed by Nicole Kidman, at a party in Queen of the Desert.

Gertrude and Richard (in uniform) saying good-bye before Richard leaves for Gallipoli

An extract from “The London Gazette”, # 29202, dated June 23, 1915, records the following: “On 26th April 1915 subsequent to a landing having been effected on the beach at a point on the Gallipoli Peninsula, during which both Brigadier- General and Brigade Major had been killed, Lieutenant- Colonel Doughty-Wylie and Captain Walford organised and led an attack through and on both sides of the village of Sedd el Bahr (Seddulbahir in modern Turkish) on the Old Castle at the top of the hill inland. The enemy’s position was very strongly held and entrenched, and defended with concealed machine-guns and pom-poms. It was mainly due to the initiative, skill and great gallantry of these two officers that the attack was a complete success. Both were killed in the moment of victory.”

Some sources argue that Doughty-Wylie only carried a stick as he led the attack because of his love of the Turkish people that he did not want to kill any of them. A Telegraph article, on the other hand, takes a different view and argues that, stuck between an unhappy marriage and an unconsummated but still passionate affair, Doughty-Wylie actually committed suicide in Gallipoli.

“By the third year of their affair, Doughty-Wylie was at his wits’ end, having been warned by his wife that she would kill herself if he left her, and by Bell that she would kill herself if he didn’t. Scornful of convention as ever, she had urged him to ignore the social disgrace of divorce, telling him in one heartfelt letter: “It’s that or nothing. I can’t live without you.”

Unable to keep either woman happy, he instead chose to lead a group of soldiers on a particularly dangerous beach landing at Gallipoli in April 1915. A Turkish bullet killed him at the moment of victory, and his gallantry won him a posthumous VC. Yet fellow soldiers noticed he seemed strangely calm during battle, taking no weapon with him and making no effort to avoid theTurkish guns. Did he have suicidal intentions of his own that day?”

Well, who knows?

Charles Doughty-Wylie grave registration, source: cwgc.org
Charles Doughty-Wylie Gallipoli grave registration, source: cwgc.org

It is not just Doughty-Wylie died in Gallipoli but also his  grave is the only solitary British or Commonwealth war grave on the Gallipoli peninsula thanks to his services for the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish authorities moved the graves of all other foreign soldiers to the “V Beach” graves except for his. Jeremy Seal, in his personal pilgrimage to Gallipoli article says that the local legend identifies Gertrude Bell “as the veiled woman seen at his grave shortly before the eventual allied evacuation.”

source: anzachouse.jpg
Doughty-Wylie grave, Gallipoli source: anzachouse.jpg

And the last but not the least character Damian portrays who has a connection to my Homeland is Nicholas Elliott, yet another real life person, in A Spy Among Friends that just had its World Premiere at BFI London Film Festival a few weeks ago and will have its TV premiere on ITV’s new streaming service ITVX in November.

A Spy Among Friends, based on Ben MacIntyre’s best-selling book, is about arguably the greatest spy story of the 20th century. Kim Philby was the most successful member of the Cambridge Five, a group of spies recruited by the Russians to pass information from the UK to the Soviet Union during the Second World War through 1950s. When the Secret Service finally had the evidence to confront him, Philby had already provided secret information to the Soviets for 30 years! And MacIntyre chooses to tell this fascinating story through Kim Philby’s longtime relationship with his fellow MI6 agent Nick Elliott.

The story takes place in a number of locations including London, Bern, Washington D.C., Vienna, Beirut and… Istanbul. I honestly found out that Istanbul was a huge spy hub in the 1940s and 50s thanks to reading the book! Both Elliott and Philby worked in Istanbul at different times. Elliott even married Elizabeth Holberton, his MI6 secretary and confidante, at the famous Istanbul Park Hotel.

Nick Elliott on his wedding day, with his bride Elizabeth Holberton, in Istanbul

I was hoping for some filming to take place in Istanbul but it seems they filmed in London, Paris and Romania. That said – given that there is probably a scene or two that supposedly takes place in Istanbul in the mini-series, we may see Damian practice his Turkish… which brings me to his “Tesekkur, Bahar.”

When I tell Damian, when we catch up at Film at Lincoln Center in New York, that my husband now believes that Damian is learning Turkish to impress me, he laughs 🙂  I tell him I know there is no way he has learnt “Teşekkür” (equivalent of “Thanks”) for me, and Damian says he also learnt “Teşekkür ederim (equivalent of a formal “Thank you”) and I am in awe! He has a great Turkish accent, too! But the thing is I am pretty sure he has learnt all of this on  ‘A Spy Among Friends‘ set! As Damian stays mum about how he has honed his skills in Turkish language, we decide it is better if my husband keeps believing Damian is learning Turkish to impress me 🙂 We’re villains!

So while this article is about my Homeland and not about Homeland, the series’ Season 4 was originally planned to be filmed in Turkey.  You may remember that, after Brody’s death in Season 3 Season Finale, Carrie was offered to take over as the CIA Istanbul bureau chief to oversee covert Iranian operations after they were able to place a double agent in the upper echelons of Iranian intelligence. However, when Turkish officials wanted to scrutinize the scripts due to security reasons (read  “paranoia”), the producers decided to film in Cape Town, South Africa. Otherwise, we would have had Season 4 Episode 7 Redux – the one with Brody appearing in Carrie’s hallucination – filmed in My Homeland.

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

One thought on “Damian Lewis and My Homeland”

  1. The secret world of MI6 can be a small one as portrayed by Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce in A spy Amongst Friends about Kim Philby and if you haven’t read it yet, Ben Macintyre will be disappointed!

    As all espionage cognoscenti know, Kim Philby was a member of the infamous Cambridge Five along with Anthony Blunt, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and John Cairncross. Philby knew John le Carré (aka David Cornwell) and ended le Carré’s career in MI6 by treacherously informing on all his East European secret agents.

    Philby (and maybe other Famous Five members) also knew Colonel Alan Brooke Pemberton CVO MBE in the fifties when Pemberton was ADC to Field Marshall Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer and fought in the guerrilla war known as the Malayan Emergency. Philby was sniffing around for information to help the communist Malayan insurgents backed inter alia by the USSR but got little useful data from Templer’s camp and the insurgents (the Malayan National Liberation Army) were eventually defeated by the British.

    In the early seventies Alan Pemberton recruited one Bill Fairclough for MI6 (codename JJ). They worked together on and off for the next twenty years or so. Before 2014 Fairclough’s links with various intelligence agencies became public knowledge and to quash any fake narratives Fairclough set about publishing a series of factual autobiographical novels known as The Burlington Files, only one of which (Beyond Enkription) has been published to date.

    Given Alan Pemberton (Fairclough’s original MI6 handler knew Kim Philby) it is unsurprising that John le Carré turned down Bill Fairclough’s offer in 2014 to collaborate on the action packed factual Burlington Files series. David Cornwell responded along the lines of “Why should I? I’ve got by so far without collaboration so why bother now?”

    An expected but realistic response from a famous expert in passive fiction who refused to visit theburlingtonfiles.org in case his photo was snatched while on line! Pemberton’s People in MI6 even included Roy Richards OBE (Winston Churchill’s bodyguard) and an eccentric British Brigadier (Peter ‘Scrubber’ Stewart-Richardson) who was once refused permission to join the Afghan Mujahideen.

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