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This American Platoon is Led by a Brit, Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2000

Damian Lewis survived a slew of tests to win the role of a war hero.

by DAVID GRITTEN, Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2000
HATFIELD, England — “I’ve really screwed up my hearing,” grimaces Damian Lewis. “I should have had earplugs in.”

The mud-spattered Lewis, in a World War II paratrooper uniform, has spent the morning shooting blanks (24 for each take) from an M-1 rifle at a crowd of extras dressed as German soldiers.

It is a deafening business, and everyone else on set either wears earplugs or covers their ears whenever director Tom Hanks yells “action!”

The temporary ringing in his ears, though, isn’t enough to spoil Lewis’ morning–and certainly not his year. In “Band of Brothers,” he has secured the leading role, that of the great American war hero Richard Winters, a platoon leader. It’s quite a coup for a virtually unknown English actor.

“It only became clear to me when all the cast were at boot camp before shooting,” says Lewis, 28. “I thought, my God, I’m playing one of America’s own, still-living heroes. And they’ve given it to an English guy. I started to realize the enormity of the task.”

Lewis, wiry and red-haired, talks intensely and articulately about being chosen for the role: “I did three auditions, four screen tests. You make a list, and of young actors in London, there were about 30 of us. And they saw about 130 in America. After my fourth screen test in London, I had to wait, then I was asked to fly to Los Angeles to meet Steven [Spielberg] and Tom [Hanks]. That was my big Hollywood moment.”

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