Categories Behind the Scenes In Development/ Pre-Production Print Media Run This Town

Damian Lewis in Run This Town: A First Look – Nov 19, 2018

Ford Nation of Toronto

by Damianista | Fan Fun with Damian Lewis | November 19, 2018

Rob Ford was no ordinary mayor. He was regularly involved in controversy from 2010 to 2014 as he ran the city of Toronto. Ford was, in particular, repeatedly videotaped and photographed while intoxicated in public, culminating in his being recorded smoking crack cocaine as reported by the Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle of the Toronto Star. The Star won the Michener Award, one of the highest distinctions in Canadian journalism, for the investigative journalism.

“The Toronto Star exposed Ford’s public drunkenness, boorish behavior, abuses of his office, and existence of a video of him smoking crack cocaine accompanied by members of drug gang. The Star did not waver as the mayor countered every story with vehement denials and attacks.”

And the police investigation the scandal triggered resulted in Ford losing most of his mayoral powers in a quite undignified way.

Now, while it was not surprising to find out Damian Lewis, who was born to bring massively flawed characters to life on screen, was cast to play this “flashy, unpredictable politician with no filter” the casting was surprising since Damian Lewis and Rob Ford are not exactly long lost twins… And it really took time for us to lift our jaws up from the floor when we saw pictures of Damian arriving on set…

…and then leaving his trailer seven hours later as Rob Ford wearing a “Ford Nation” tshirt, a reference to the mainly suburban supporters of Ford and his populist conservative agenda…

…and later in full costume as the mayor of Toronto! WHOA.

Damian has shared in an interview with Kit Magazine that the process of getting fitted for prosthetics involved getting his face and head completely covered in silicon strips, breathing through a small hole near the nose and he has later kindly helped us understand the process with this unsettling photo on Twitter. YIKES!

So Damian Lewis, ahem, Rob Ford runs the town in Run This Town; however the movie is not a Rob Ford biopic. Ricky Tollman, who has written and directed the movie, explains:

“This isn’t the Rob Ford story, this is a story about people that I know and people I grew up with and a generation of people.”

Given that Tollman is a 32 year old making his directorial debut with Run This Town, when he talks about the people he grew up with, he does talk about the millennials! And while Rob Ford character is “in a few key scenes and a few key moments” in Run This Town, the plot is centered around a a couple of millennials! There is a newsroom intern, portrayed by the Tony Award-winning Dear Evan Hansen star Ben Platt, who wants to break the story on the Rob Ford crack-smoking scandal but he is several steps behind the other reporters. And there are two young political aides to the mayor, portrayed by Canadian actors Mena Massoud and Nina Dobrev, who do their best to keep Ford in check, to keep his scandals under wraps and ultimately to save their jobs. Jennifer Ehle is cast as Platt’s character’s boss, and Scott Speedman and Gil Bellows complete the cast. And I am happy to report Damian’s reaction to Ehle’s casting is exactly the same as mine: I first fell in love with her Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and was also lucky to see her terrific performance in Oslo, a play that went on to win Tony Award for Best New Play in 2017.

Director Tollman shares in an interview with The Globe and The Mail that while Rob Ford obviously had a tumultuous time in the mayoral office, he wanted to paint “a sympathetic portrait” of the late mayor in the movie.

“I didn’t want to portray Rob in a way that people already imagined him, or in ways he’s already been portrayed in the media…. I think Rob isn’t just a caricature, he’s a person and he’s a human, he had two children and a wife and a family, and he cared very deeply about the city he was the mayor of. And this was a guy with demons. I wanted to show a side of him that people forget about.”

Now, one can argue it is not straightforward to see why Tollman has cast Damian Lewis for the role of Rob Ford because there are talented actors out there who physically look much more like Ford than Damian. But then when you hear the director Tollman talk about Rob Ford “as a guy with demons” then you know that there is probably no other actor than Damian who could give a human touch to  this larger-than-life character with a complicated inner world.

Read the rest of the original article at Fan Fun with Damian Lewis