Kindly supplied by Warner Bros
IT'S A tribute to Damian Lewis that it comes as a surprise to
discover that Dreamcatcher is his very first film. It feels like
he's been around on the big screen for much longer as his director,
Lawrence Kasdan, would testify.
But London-born Lewis, who was educated at Eton, has had a remarkable
few years and enjoyed some high profile television work, which
has now pushed him to the forefront of his generation of actors.
As he himself acknowledges, it's thanks mostly to his acclaimed
work on the Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks produced mini series,
Brothers, in which he played Major Richard Winters and won himself
a Golden Globe nomination as a result.
Next up for Lewis is a starring role alongside Robert Redford
and Jennifer Lopez in a thriller due to be filmed later this year.
But, as Kasdan points out: "He's an extraordinary actor.
He's magnetic, charismatic and soulful. And he plays an American
"I was knocked out by his ability. This may have been his
first film but it won't be his last, that's for sure."
Lewis plays Jonesy, one of a group of four men who have been
friends since childhood, who reunite to make their annual trip
to a remote cabin in the woods.
When the friends arrive for their annual winter break, each can
major change coming to their lives. When they take in a hunter
been lost in the woods, the are confronted by an alien virus which
threatens their lives and thousands of those around them.
For Lewis, playing Jonesy represented quite a challenge - he
essentially playing two characters in one - the likable college
lecturer and the alien which takes him over, known as Mr Gray.
Here's what he had to say about the challenges of taking on the
Q. Was it fun to play what is essentially two roles?
A. Yes, it was a lot of fun, it's kind of two for the price
of one acting, just lots of showing off basically, jumping backwards
and forwards between two characters, and it keeps you busy and
keeps you alive and that's important when you are doing a long
project like this. Especially in the cold.
Q How long was it?
A. Well four months, four and a half months and that's
a lot of waiting around as an actor, and that's the most difficult
part of being an actor on a film set, I think.
A lot of people love it, they have their small houses - their
trailers - and they take all of their stuff in there. But I like
to be busy, so it was great playing two roles because it kept
me very busy.
Q This was your first American movie, which is hard to believe..
A. Yes, my first American movie and really my first film,
full stop. Band of Brothers and The Forsythe Saga and Warriors
are the three big things I've done for TV, I guess, but I've never
done a film and Larry (Kasdan) saw Band of Brothers and loved
it and asked to see me for Dreamcatcher.
And when I read the script - and I've seen so much mediocre rubbish
- I thought it was far more original than anything I'd read previously,
and with Larry directing it, who has made some of my favourite
films, so it was an incredible introduction basically.
Q. Have you read the book?
A. No, and I still haven't read it. I usually do a lot of
reading around the subject.
For example, if you are making something like Band of Brothers,
you do a lot of reading, there's a lot of history to help influence
But with Dreamcatcher, I knew how condensed this script was, I
knew how cleverly it had to be adapted because I heard that the
book was long and how, shall we say, structurally less tight than
usual for Stephen King and people were saying how hard it was
going to be to turn it into a film.
And then I got the script and the script was such a trip in itself,
and I thought 'well, that's enough to be going on with..'
And I thought this is going to have to live in my imagination
and everyone's imagination and I dipped into the book in the end
only for brief character notes about Jonesy and there wasn't much
because Stephen King pre-occupies himself really with charging
on with the story.
Q Do you like Stephen King as a writer?
A. I do, yes. I only discovered recently that he wrote The
Shawshank Redemption. And having grown up in the Seventies with
Carrie and The Shining and other films like that, Christine, and
then later Stand By Me, and later still Misery and Shawshank Redemption.
I mean, his versatility is unbelievable.
And I read his book On Writing, which is his musings, surprisingly,
on writing (laughs) and he is a bloody good writer, a very good
writer. And I suppose I had always sort of erroneously thought
he was an airport novel man, along with other people. He is much
much better than that, much better. He's phenomenal and he is
the biggest selling author in the world and perhaps there's no
Q. Did he come to the set?
A. No, he didn't. He had this terrible accident, which he
writes about in Dreamcatcher; it's his first reference to his
accident, the accident he puts Jonesy in, and the violence of
the accident in the movie and the stunt is incredible and you
can't imagine anyone getting up from that ever again.
Apparently his crash was that violent and he broke nearly every
bone in his body, and it is quite incredible he is even walking.
I think he lives still in some pain, which is why he doesn't come
to the set anymore, and doesn't travel quite so much.
Airplanes are tricky for him because he has to sit for that long.
But he wrote parts of Dreamcatcher and definitely a lot of On
Writing just slumped up against a wall on the floor because it
was too painful for him to sit at a table in a chair.
Q. Was it hard to watch yourself in the crash scene, it's
A. What the accident or me acting? (laughs) Because that's
hard the first time.
Well, I've had a bad motorbike crash myself, and I know what it's
like to come round in the middle of a road in the middle of the
night, with rain just dripping on you and the blur and sounds
of a ring of faces peering down at you.
And the cliched way of shooting someone who has been in an accident,
which we've all seen, you put the camera and look up at the faces
and it's all blurred and there are lights and, you know, sirens
in the distance, is exactly what it is like
when you wake up from a crash when you have been knocked out on
Q. When was that?
A. It was 1998.
Q. What was the bike?
A. I was riding a Triumph Sprint 900. I was in London, I had
just been on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, we were
doing Much Ado
About Nothing. A cab pulled out, it was just a typical cliched
motorbike accident. where I was the only thing in the road and
I saw him 400 yards back and I got 200 and I thought 'well he
has obviously seen me' and then 50. and then he just pulled out.
It's just one of those things when you are riding a bike, it's
going to happen to you at some point. People just don't see you.
Q. And how badly hurt were you?
A. Amazingly, I broke nothing but I had concussion for three
Q. You talked about the script being original, is that because
of this bold mixture of genres?
A. Yeah, certainly we interviewed Larry Kasdan, all of us.
I think everyone said, 'so Larry, I love this script and I think
it's really exciting that you are directing it, but what is it?
Is it a horror movie? Is it a comedy? Is it a relationship movie?'
And he said (does a Kasdan voice), 'well, I don't know, we're
going to find out..' And that's the leap of faith that everybody
The reason is that it is so exciting, with Larry and Bill Goldman
adapting it, there was an emotional centre....it was a big alien
effects movie but two writers had risked writing a more intimate
character movie at the centre of it, which is immediately seductive
to actors because it means that there are characters that you
can get your hands on and be creative with, hopefully, rather
than just being involved in a big shoot 'em up kind of movie,
which can also be fun, but is a different kind of exercise.
I think we all jumped on board because Larry was doing it, and
he is a master of ensemble film-making and we were all intrigued
how he would direct an effects movie - it's very un-Larry Kasdan.
But then we were all reminded that he did write Raiders of the
Lost ArK and he did write The Empire Strikes Back.
And he was Mr Action King for a while, being a (George) Lucas
prodigy. So, if someone is going to combine horror, relationships,
comedy, aliens, effects, then Larry would have as good a chance
as anyone of pulling it off.
And I don't think he has made any attempt, which is typical of
Larry because I think he is an ambitious film-maker, any attempt
to limit the film, to streamline it or to formalize it in any
way, to make it more palatable to a mainstream audience. It's
a sophisticated alien movie I think.
Even in the second act, when you would expect the movie to be
rushing to the conclusion, Larry spends time to develop characters,
so there's a full emotional story.
He juggles a lot of balls in the air and I think it makes for
a great film. From what I can understand, many people have said
to me that they really enjoyed it; they said it was clever and
beautifully crafted and, hopefully, that is the response it will
continue to get.