‘Keane’ Star Researches Role Among the Mentally Ill


In Lodge Kerrigan’s riveting Keane (opening September 9), Damian Lewis occupies nearly every frame as the schizophrenic title character, who forges a troubled bond with a little girl and her mother while he searches desperately for his own missing daughter. “I loved the compassion and unjudgmental attitude of the script toward someone with mental illness, which runs in parallel with a completely natural, rational emotional trauma that he experiences over the abduction of his kid,” says Lewis. The 34-year-old Londoner prepared for his role in part by spending time at Fountain House on West 47th Street, a club and support facility for the mentally ill. “You can talk to people there who are lucid and have remarkable stories to tell, and in the same room you’ll have someone in the corner rocking back and forth, experiencing unbelievably heightened anxiety.”

Shot in and around living, breathing New York locations—the Port Authority provides the set for the film’s most spellbinding sequence—Keane required enormous stamina from its lead actor, who first attracted notice in Band of Brothers and Dreamcatcher. (He also has a small role in next week’s An Unfinished Life.) “The camera is all handheld and we worked in live environments; we couldn’t control background movements or people looking at the camera, so sometimes we would shoot an incredibly intense scene nine, 10 times before everything came together. I could nail it two or three times, but then I’d start to dip,” says Lewis. “It’s a knockout role for an actor—a character who spends 90 minutes in an extreme emotional state. It’s not something you can dare to get wrong.”