Help! I’m Meeting Hanks
by Weekend Reporters | Daily Mail | October 19, 2018
Some of today’s biggest stars have written for us in the past – including Damian Lewis, who wrote this hilarious diary about his big break in Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s WWII TV series Band of Brothers. Weekend Magazine shared extracts from Damian Lewis’s diary as a rising star:
Late August 1999 – Call from my agent, Stephanie Randall. Hollywood’s coming to town. Hurrah. Another chance to record myself on a tape for some big blockbuster which will gather dust on a shelf in LA. ‘This is different,’ Stephanie stresses, ‘It’s Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. They’re seeing everybody, and they want you to play an American. It’s gonna be huge.’
Day of audition – I head off on my motorbike. It rains on me, I arrive, soaked and walk down some steps into a colourless Soho basement.
‘Take a seat please, Damian.’
I glance at the audition sheet. Every actor in London under 30 who still has both his legs is being seen. I do the audition and leave. It seems to have gone well. My accent held together – if you like Sylvester Stallone impersonations. I find I have a parking ticket. I ride home thinking violent thoughts.
A month later – ‘They want to see you again.’ It’s Stephanie on the phone. I return to the same colourless basement, and I’m greeted by the casting director, more enthusiastically this time. ‘You know they want to see you for the main part, Winters,’ he says. ‘He’s the hero.’ I’m packed off to have American accent training. For some reason I sound like Jimmy Stewart.
A month later a third audition – Same part, different accent. I think I’m James Caan in The Godfather and have come over all ‘ba da bing ba da boom.’ Christ, someone help me.
Late November – ‘Damian, I think you’re the only person they’re still seeing for the main role,’ Stephanie says on the phone. I walk into the same colourless basement for the fourth time. Same line of producers and casting directors. I do my piece. ‘So Damian, how would you like to fly to LA on Thursday and meet Steven and Tom?’ says Tony To, who’s running the auditions. My heart misses a beat. This is definitely a Hollywood moment. In Soho.‘I’ll have to call my Granny to rearrange lunch.’ They all laugh. It doesn’t occur to them I might actually have to do this.
The Hollywood machine whirrs into action. Flights, hotels and limos are booked. I still have to get on my bike and I’m breathing too fast to ride in a straight line.
48 hours later – I’m staying at Shutters On The Beach, an exclusive hotel in Santa Monica. I’m looking out of my window at the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean and the rich yellow of the sandy beaches. I listen to the warm breeze play in the palm trees. I like this a lot. Money is being spent on me here – could I really be in with a chance?
The next day – When I get out of this limo, I’m going to walk into a room and meet Tom Hanks. I must remember to tell him how much I like Philadelphia, Saving Private Ryan, Apollo 13, his ‘serious’ work. But I really want to talk about Splash, Big and Bachelor Party, the ones I grew up on. ‘Hey, Damian, thanks for coming. You must be tired after flying all the way from London.’ Tom is speaking to me. Before I can stop myself, I’ve launched into one of the unfunniest jokes I’ve ever made. I rub my arms, and blurt out, ‘Yeah, my arms are pretty stiff,’ (implying I’d actually flown). Tumbleweed blows through the room. Silence. ‘Did this guy just say what I think he said?’ At least, that’s the look on Tom’s face. His jaw open, a look of utter disbelief in his eyes. The silence lasts a few seconds before Tom, realising he has to help me out of this horrible moment, yells, ‘Aw, OK, funny guy. Very good. Sit down.’
He can’t possibly give me a job after that, I’m thinking. But we act together. I play Winters. Tom does all the other characters. My accent is now rock solid. Nothing can shake it. Not even Tom’s beard, now so big for the film Castaway that I can’t be sure it’s even him talking.‘OK, you’re too good. Get outta here,’ he yells. Tony To appears from behind another door. ‘Nice work, Damian, you have nothing to worry about.’
I go out and get absolutely smashed until five in the morning.
8am next morning – ‘Damian, are you awake? Steven would like to see you at midday.’ It’s Meg, the casting director. I cry into my pillow. Little simpering sobs at first, then naked hysterical screaming. The biggest meeting of my life and I’ve blown it. I’ve had three hours’ sleep and I’m still drunk.
By midday – I’ve had three cold showers, five coffees and stubbed my toe a lot. I walk into the office sweating and shaking. We’re introduced. ‘I used to live in Hampstead,’ Steven tells me. ‘Maybe we know the same people?’ Not unless you’ve been around Kensal Green lately mate, I thought. ‘You know Ralph Fiennes?’ he asks. ‘Yes, yes, I do,’ I nearly fall off my chair with excitement that I can actually continue this conversation with Steven Spielberg. ‘We did Hamlet together on Broadway. I played Laertes,’ I say. Steven remembers the show and even me in it. He liked it. This is good. We chat some more.
Steven’s off to watch his kid play soccer. I want to tell him it’s called football. Probably not the best time, though. Tom has to go buy a Christmas tree with his daughter. They leave. Tony looks at me and says, ‘So, ready for the boot camp in March?’
I kiss everyone in the room. I’m Dick Winters! I’m in Band of Brothers.