What’s the Story Helen McCrory?
by Cole Moreton | Event Magazine | February 23, 2019
She stars opposite a legendary Hollywood heart-throb in the ambitious new BBC drama MotherFatherSon, but Helen McCrory was never going to swoon over Richard Gere. ‘I was a naughty girl,’ says the actress with a chuckle, explaining why she didn’t fall for Gere’s clean-cut charms like so many her age – 14 – when his first hit, An Officer And A Gentleman, came out in 1982.
‘I was a Jimi Hendrix girl. I liked my rock ’n’ roll. I liked the naughty boys – Bob Dylan was going to wake me up in a harem in Morocco. So it wasn’t that I didn’t have a crush on him, I didn’t see the films.’ ‘I knew who he was, of course,’ she says. ‘But I had a crush on Adam And The Ants back then. It was all London, it was all street, it was all edgy, it was all the smell of carbon monoxide and marches and DMs.’
Gere plays a very powerful man with deep secrets. Could she challenge Gere? She nods. ‘It was constantly a work in progress. I come from the British tradition, which is all about the script. The word is God. He comes from an American tradition, where you improvise around it. I’ve never worked with anyone like that.’
She does know – and is proud to say – that she was given her part long before her more famous co-star. ‘I was cast six weeks before Gere was! MotherFatherSon: it’s in that order for a reason, as in every family!’
McCrory and Lewis have a son and a daughter, Gulliver and Manon, who are 11 and 12. They live in a Victorian townhouse in north London, having tried Los Angeles for a while before returning home.
McCrory met Lewis when they were cast opposite each other in a play called Five Gold Rings at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2003. They came from different worlds: he’s an Old Etonian, she’s the daughter of a working-class Scot who became a diplomat, so she grew up in far-flung places such as Cameroon and Madagascar. At the time they were both in their 30s and established actors. The chemistry between them was instant, according to director Michael Attenborough, who said it was ‘like directing a fire’.
Lewis had recently been nominated for a Golden Globe for Band Of Brothers. He subsequently won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for Homeland and now stars in the banking drama Billions. Lewis said recently: ‘Helen and I made the decision that while we would be hands-on parents, we’d still keep working and not derail our careers entirely. It’s a difficult decision but we need money.’
With all that success between them, surely they must be loaded? McCrory laughs, squints and leans forward. ‘Are you my mum? Are you asking to see my bank balance?’
She’s clearly suggesting that’s nonsense, although the household can’t be doing badly. Her husband Damian Lewis became a massive star in America after appearing in the mini-series Band Of Brothers, and is a Hollywood leading man himself, from the series Homeland and Billions.
She’s frugal, apparently. ‘I don’t spend money. Damian is constantly on at me. I still have the same towels I had when I was 20. I have the duvet I had when I was 16. I grew up in Africa, I don’t throw things away because they look like shit. Because they are still towels. I spend money on eating out, travelling, taxis – those are the great pleasures of life as far as I’m concerned. I work for the BBC. I work for theatre. Just because my husband is playing a billionaire doesn’t mean he actually has those clothes and those yachts.’
Sure, but they’re major stars now. ‘Do you know how much I cost a year? Huge bill. Huge maintenance for his wife.’ She’s joking, of course. ‘But remember, we are freelance. We’re very aware that this could end tomorrow. If you want the freedom to be able to choose your projects, that costs a lot of money. We didn’t work for some of last year and spent six months at home with the kids. We don’t have a nanny. We worked here and were with the kids, that’s all we were doing. It’s all we want to do.’
When she’s not acting, McCrory is involved in a local charity in north London. ‘We take art to kids in schools that are struggling. We go in and we mentor. We’re talking to Camden Council about trying to get a youth club in our area. There is a lot to do other than acting.’
She’s so busy that she missed an envelope offering her an OBE in 2017 for services to drama. McCrory explained later that she thought it was a bill and therefore her husband’s responsibility: ‘It’s quite old school. He pays most of the bills.’ They can pick and choose parts now, but how do they decide what to take? If one of them gets a lead at the National Theatre but the other is offered a well-paid Hollywood role, who wins? ‘Right, like there’s order to this? I love that idea! No, we haven’t got a map. We’re like everyone else, we just make it up as we go along.’
When I ask for her opinion on James Bond, she sighs. Her husband has been considered one of the frontrunners for a long time, but has joked himself that by the time the producers make a decision he will probably be dead. So should 007 be a person of colour now, such as Idris Elba? Or a woman? How about her? McCrory’s eyes flash. ‘I think it would be absolutely wonderful if they just started again and went for a period Bond, made it absolutely exact and as close to the books. That would be fascinating.’
Last gig you went to?
The Rolling Stones – Ronnie Wood got us tickets. We’ve known Ronnie and his wife Sally a long time. They call us ‘the babysitters’ because when their twins were little, we used to see them at parties and we’d look after all the kids that played with ours. We were chatting and I said, ‘I’ve never seen the Stones,’ so he got us tickets. They were fantastic. I am going to see Billie Eilish next month.
Where do you get your news?
Radio 4 is on constantly, and I’ll always buy a newspaper every day. I want my Letter To The Editor, I want my Comment section. And we get Time, Vanity Fair, The Economist, The Spectator, The New Yorker, and sometimes The Lancet – for showing off!
MotherFatherSon starts on March 6 at 9pm, BBC2
Read the rest of the original article at Daily Mail