Damian Lewis: ‘I don’t want to play James Bond anymore… I don’t have that ambition’

The UK Premiere of 'Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood' held at the Odeon Luxe, Leicester Square

I’ve loved all of Damian Lewis’s forays into American television. The British actor has a knack for playing interesting American men in projects like Band of Brothers, Life, Homeland and currently Billions. I got addicted to Billions about two or three seasons in and I find it to be one of Damian’s best performances. He plays a manipulative, unapologetic a–hole who mostly talks like a guru when he’s not screwing over every single person around him. Damian sat down with GQ to promote the new season of Billions – you can read the piece here. Some highlights:

He always wanted to do theater, not TV & film: “I had no desire to be in film or TV. I didn’t really go to movies, didn’t really know what they were, wasn’t really excited by them. I never really watched TV. We weren’t really allowed to watch much TV as kids. We were a family that went to the theater—very middle-class.”

Playing Bobby Axelrod on Billions: He’s surprised when people will come up to him and complain that the character is no longer the good guy that he used to be. “Really?” Lewis says, acting out his reply to them, or at least the one in his head. “Have you watched the show? I’m despicable!” Likewise are the weird collateral compliments he has faced from people in the hedge-fund world: “Women coming up to me, ‘You know you’re modeled on my husband, Michael,’ or whatever it is. And I think, ‘Well, do you visit him often in prison?’ ”

Whether he enjoys playing such an a–hole: “Obviously there is something therapeutic about it, releasing that a–hole in yourself in a safe environment, repeatedly” but there is a cumulative toll. “Over a period of time, I find Bobby Axelrod sits heavily on me. By the end of each six months, I have had enough of it.”

He hated his original Steve McQueen in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: “I just felt a bit like, basically, if Jon Bon Jovi was playing Robert Redford who was trying to play Steve McQueen—that’s sort of who I looked like. And it didn’t feel quite Steve McQueen enough. Because at least one of those people isn’t very cool. It was too straight-flowing, and it just looked a bit sort of ’80s soft rock.” The one they ended up using was “a bit sort of curlier and unkempt and matted,” and Lewis was happier. “People said, ‘You look like McQueen.’ So there you go. That’s what we wanted.”

Whether he thinks he could or should still play James Bond: “To be honest, it’s subsided. And I don’t want to play James Bond anymore. If someone had asked me 10 years ago, that might have been a different matter. But I don’t have that sort of ambition now. I don’t want to go traveling off around the world for eight months of the year and play one character for the next 10 years. And I think I’d be the oldest new James Bond cast, maybe after Roger Moore. Or maybe even older than Roger Moore. So, you know, I don’t think it’s a problem. I don’t think it’s something I have to think about….I think it was quite exciting five years ago, maybe, when there was a bit of press and suddenly I was—along with, I think, one other actor—the ‘favorite’ to be James Bond. But that’s not going to happen. That’s gone. That’s gone, without regret.”

[From GQ]

He was so poorly cast as McQueen in OUATIH! He was only there for a couple of minutes and A) the wig was TRAGIQUE and B) he actually doesn’t look like McQueen. I can see why Tarantino sort of thought why Damian could pull it off, but his cameo really took me out of the movie because it was a mess. As for Billions… the show changed a lot when they introduced the Taylor character played by Asia Kate Dillon. Suddenly, Bobby didn’t have to be the yin to Paul Giammatti’s yang. Asia Kate is the “third heat” which shook up the show in a major way, and Asia Kate/Taylor makes the Giammatti and Lewis look like hapless over-actors. Anyway, that’s my explanation for why people are like “whoa, Bobby Axelrod is terrible now!” He was always terrible, but he looks even more terrible when compared to Taylor.

Damian Lewis at 'Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood' film premiere, London, UK

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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12 Responses to “Damian Lewis: ‘I don’t want to play James Bond anymore… I don’t have that ambition’”

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  1. Onnit says:

    Give me Idris Elba!

  2. Case says:

    I’m perplexed why the James Bond conversation has gone on for so long. Daniel Craig is still in the role for his final film coming out this year. Shouldn’t that conversation start once that movie is out, not several years prior?

    • Snappyfish says:

      I am all in for James Norton (Grantchester) for Bond. I would have liked Idris for Bond but he said he is too old much like Damian is now. I love Damian & As Bobby on Billions you find yourself loving the sheer a-holiness of his character. No one is safe.

  3. Roberta says:

    I loooove Damian Lewis too. I’m still not over Life (terrible title, great show) being cancelled, and I’m completely hooked on Billions as well. To the point that I have been taking Bobby Axelrod’s side, no matter how evil he’s been. I would actually marry Bobby Axelrod, even without the money #hopelesslybrokenpicker

  4. Darla says:

    “Over a period of time, I find Bobby Axelrod sits heavily on me. By the end of each six months, I have had enough of it.”

    Very similar to how Hamm spoke about playing Don Draper. Interesting.

  5. Swan Lake says:

    I hated his character in Homeland, and haven’t watched him in anything since. Silly, I know, but I often fall into this trap.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I couldn’t stand Homeland and hated his character on it too but I was shocked how great he is in Billions.
      If you like ‘fast talking’ shows at all, Billions is phenomenal.

  6. Mee says:

    Ugh I get the feeling he thinks he’s a good looking and a great actor. To me…he’s below average looking and an ok actor. Once Upon a time…was so boring I never bothered to seek to finish it once the plane landed 🥱

  7. RedWeatherTiger says:

    I like Billions, even though I am often totally confused about all the money talk. Asia Kate is fantastic, and it is true: it was easy to side with Damien’s Bobby Axelrod over Paul Giamatti’s repulsive Chuck Rhoades, but after a few seasons, all the competitive backstabbing gets tiresome. Asia Kate has kept the whole thing dynamic.

    While I am unloading opinions on Billions, the Mary Sue character Wendy Rhoades makes me want to gag. And I miss Malin Akerman, who was a nice foil to Bobby’s heartlessness.

    Bond? Hardly.