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Dreamcatcher - Damian Lewis Q&A



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, Band of
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 very easily.

"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 feel a
major change coming to their lives. When they take in a hunter who has
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 is
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 role...

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 your performance.
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 coincidence.

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 very graphic?
A.
What the accident or me acting? (laughs) Because that's always quite
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 the street.

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 months.

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 took.
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.

 

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