From Espionage to History
by Debashine Thangevelo | Cape Argus / IOL / International | November 4, 2019
Damian Lewis is a recognizable face on the big and small screen. Of late, he has been praised for his roles as King Henry VIII in Wolf Hall and Bobby Axelrod in Billions. He was also cast as Steve McQueen in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. And let us not forget his role as Nicholas Brody in Homeland.
Having covered a gamut of genres, from espionage to history, it does make his latest stint as a narrator for History’s Damian Lewis: Spy Wars almost surreal.
“This Mossad mission, I’m sure 98% of people watching won’t have heard of this story. So, I think it’s a little glimpse through a window of what they did; it’s an incredible story. You will sit and watch and be utterly engaged. I think that’s true of all our stories. Even the Argo story – we come in from a slightly different angle with a bit more backstory, from the intelligence part of it rather than the film making aspect of it.”
On being a part of this project he adds, “As soon as you put yourself in front of a camera, or in front of an audience, as a performer, there’s a whole intricate web of thoughts that run through your head – how you want to be presented and how can you successfully be a credible part of your show, your story, whatever it is – and we had to work quite quickly.”
“I was flying in and out of New York from Billions and we had a budget, obviously, we had to be aware of.”
“From a craft point of view, presenting it was trying to take the curse off the ‘News at 10’ aspect of it, you know, a journalist walking towards camera with his thumb and forefinger together talking about what’s going on in the building behind me.”
He continues, “I wanted something a bit fresher, a bit more immediate, a bit more conversational, so that when you cut from a fantastically colorful KGB story you don’t come to a slightly staid, uninteresting presenter format.”
“I discussed this a lot with Gareth (Lewis), my brother, that the camera angles may be in the same way, that you would have a matching cut in a drama if we were already close with you and you’re in a scene, we’d need to come close to you. And it will feel a bit more like I’m in conversation as well with the guys we’ve been interviewing.”
“And there was something filmic in the way we tried to present those pieces to camera, and when it wasn’t just a straight-up close cut to me, that it might be that we needed a little breath so it might be that we pan across to me.”
In the series, which started not too long ago, there are several engaging episodes to come like the story of Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent who systematically dismantled the US’s network of undercover Soviet agents.
His espionage was described by the Department of Justice as “possibly the worse intelligence disaster in US history.”
Many of us have watched Argo. In the Escape from Tehran episode, viewers will see what went on during this mission in January 1980, when two CIA agents and six employees of the US Embassy in Iran arrives at Mehrabad Airport, Tehran, with fake passports, papers and scripts.
This is the remarkable story of how one man used inspiration from Hollywood to school six frightened diplomats in the art of “being someone else,” and score a victory for the CIA in one of the darkest moments for American foreign policy.
On being a part of this series, Lewis said, “I read le Carre. A lot of people of my generation probably have all read a bit of le Carre. I’ve been in a le Carre movie, three of four years ago, Our Kind of Traitor. I’ve played Nicholas Brody and done enormous amounts of research for Homeland. .
“I’ve been to Langley and the director of the CIA, John Brennan, other people, all of them during the Snowden era, I’ve been invited to the White House, I’ve had a really interesting time because of the jobs I’ve taken and so when it came to this (I was interested).”
Read the rest of the original article at IOL