Damian Lewis: An actor at the top of his game
Fame Becomes Her: The Misanthrope‘s Damian Lewis Chats About Co-Star Keira Knightley
It’s tempting, but misleading, to think of the new London production of The Misanthrope as “The Keira Knightley Show,” if only because the movies’ popular “it girl” is making her West End debut at the Comedy Theatre with director Thea Sharrock’s production of the 17th-century classic. In fact, Knightley has a supporting role as an American film actress named Jennifer (the play’s Celimene updated to today’s celebrity culture) in this rewrite by Martin Crimp of the Moliere original. But it is leading man Damian Lewis, making his own West End debut, who does the heavy lifting as the misanthropic Alceste, a man who can’t help but calling life’s fakery as he sees it—and who has the dubious luck to fall hard for Jennifer. Broadway.com caught up with Lewis, newly returned to London after several years in L.A. starring on the TV show Life, in the midst of the festive season, where the gifted, ever-articulate Londoner spoke of many things, including his famous co-star.
He’s swapped cracking the United States to star with
Keira Knightley in her West End debut, but that’s Life for actor
Damian Lewis Interview for The Misanthrope
By Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph, November 24, 2009
Damian Lewis talks about appearing with Keira Knightley as she makes her West End debut in an updated version of Moliere’s The Misanthrope.
Damian Lewis could well be the luckiest actor in London. Or the unluckiest. Luckiest in that he’s about to play the lead in The Misanthrope, which – with tickets flying out of the box-office at record-breaking speed – must be accounted one of the most eagerly awaited West End openings of the year. Unluckiest because the main reason for all the mounting hullabaloo is his co-star – Keira Knightley.
While there’s no disputing the combined allure of the assembled cast – Tara Fitzgerald and Dominic Rowan are also names to conjure with – when it comes to added spice, Knightley’s promised theatrical debut is eye-wateringly hot stuff. The prospect of a live encounter with the ravishing Pirates of the Caribbean star, recently ranked the second highest paid actress in Hollywood, has tipped the internet exchange price for tickets into triple figures. We’re potentially in the same realm of hysteria as that which enveloped Jude Law’s Hamlet, when fans queued through the night for a chance to bag a day-seat.
If the flame-haired Lewis, 38, feels any anxiety or concern about the fact that Knightley looks set to be the centre of much frenzied attention in the coming weeks, he’s not confessing to it when we meet. His last stage appearance, as the inwardly tortured businessman Karsten Bernick in Ibsen’s Pillars of the Community earned him rave reviews at the National in 2005. The part of the people-hating Alceste – the biliously witty anti-hero reconceived as a hip playwright in Martin Crimp’s smart update of Moliere’s 1666 classic comedy – should cement his reputation as one of theatre’s finest talents. But will he get his chance to capitalise on the opportunity?
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Great British Hopes: Damian Lewis
by Kate Bassett – The Times – 11 February 1995
Claim to fame: The New York Times hailed him as “The new Ralph Fiennes? The next Hugh Grant?”
Distinctive features: Six foot three. Flaming red hair. “I wasn’t aware of my hair until critics started talking about it as part of the performance,” says Lewis good-humouredly. “Maybe there’s a whole play going on on top of my head.”