Our ‘Dream Role for Damian Lewis’ series continues! Today’s casting director is Ruth who wants to see Damian in in quite an iconic role: King David. Big thanks go to her for taking the time to share her dream role with us!
On my first trip to Israel, I was surprised to see so many redheaded Israelis (“gingies” in Hebrew). “Did the Vikings get this far south?” I asked a friend of mine who knows a great deal about the history of the region. He looked at me like I was an idiot and reminded me that King David was a gingi. That immediately got me thinking of my favorite contemporary redhead, and what a grand role this would be for him!
David, the “sweet singer of Israel,” is one of the most compelling and contradictory characters in the Bible—indeed, in all of literature. “Beloved of G-d,” profoundly heroic, deeply flawed, utterly human, poet, psalmist, king, hero, warrior, icon, and so much more. Most of us first encounter David in the story of Goliath, and tragically, that’s all many of us ever know of him. It would be a mistake to turn him into a cliché, but few actors would have the tremendous range needed to take him beyond the storybook persona. As Rabbi David Wolpe writes, “David is the first biblical protagonist drawn with all the colors of human character.”
In fact, there is evidence that David truly existed: the Tel Dan inscription, discovered in 1993 and dating to the 9th century BCE, refers to the “king of Israel” and the “king of the House of David.” But who could possibly bring such a personage to life on the screen?
We know that Damian Lewis is capable of creating rounded and nuanced characters from apparently unpromising sources. His Soames Forsyte (confession: I’m a “Dark Horse”) was not a one-dimensional cardboard domestic villain but a fully realized human heart and soul wrestling with his own demons and desires—stumbling, falling short, but carrying on. His Shakespearean experience would also be crucial, and we know that both Hamlet and Macbeth draw on Davidic themes.
Damian could do justice to David’s complex humanity that has inspired artists for millennia, and he is now the right age to incarnate David at the height of his powers and prestige.
My dream would not be a stereotypical wooden “sand and sandals” Biblical epic with corny, stilted dialogue, but a film based as accurately as possible on all available sources (Biblical, historical, archaeological). To the extent that it’s practical, it would be filmed in the specific places that still exist today, such as Ein Gedi and David’s eternal capital Jerusalem. Ideally (let me dream!), it would show David’s internal battles mirrored in the story of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.
It is astonishing how present David remains in the present—pun intended. Modern artists continue to draw on Davidic themes in sculpture, painting, architecture, and literature. To this day, one of the best-known and most popular Hebrew songs is “David, Melech Yisrael, chai, chai vekayam (David, King of Israel, lives and is alive)!”