Damian Lewis

"In moments of preciousness, I think I should be doing something more useful with my life, but communication through artistic forms is important," says actor Damian Lewis, describing how he views his craft.

Born on February 11, 1971, to parents Watcyn and Charlotte Lewis, Damian was raised in London's St John's Wood district. Avid theatre goers, his parents often took Damian and his three siblings to the West End and introduced them to acting at a very early age. "The most exciting feeling was when the house lights went down and there was the last rustling of crisp packets. It was magical," says the auburn-haired star.

His interest in acting grew at Ashdown House school in Sussex where, as a young boarder, he starred in its annual Gilbert and Sullivan production. At Eton he continued his acting pursuits, forming a theatre company through which he starred as Wackford Squeers in its production of Nicholas Nickelby.

Graduation was followed by a brief stint as a car alarm-installer in South London, but Damian's heart was set elsewhere. In 1990 he enrolled at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where fellow students included Ewan McGregor and Joseph Fiennes. It was here, Damian says, he was "whipped into shape by a few people I thought I knew more about life than, but didn't", and where his disciplined acting style was formed.

After leaving the Guildhall School in 1993, Damian appeared in several Royal Shakespeare Company productions, honing his skills in productions such as Hamlet, in which he played Laertes to Ralph Fiennes' troubled Danish prince. While still treading the boards at the RSC, he also landed his first small and big screen parts including an episode of Poirot, and a supporting role in the Pierce Brosnan vehicle Robinson Crusoe.

He went on to star in several popular and critically acclaimed TV productions, including 1999's Bafta-winning TV series Warriors, in which he starred with Ioan Gruffudd and Matthew Macfadyen, and a leading role in Hearts And Bones.

Damian's big break came in 1999, however, when he was cast as Major Richard Winters in the WWII made-for-TV drama Band Of Brothers. His portrayal of the stoic military leader, which was described by producer Tom Hanks as "unequivocally evocative", earned him a Golden Globe nomination and suddenly Hollywood took notice of the talented Brit. Overnight he found his career taking flight.

With Band Of Brothers enjoying critical acclaim, the actor was soon offered a role in Dreamcatchers, based on Steven King's best-selling novel and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Raving about Damian's performance, the celebrated American director described him as "an extraordinary young British actor… very magnetic, charismatic and soulful."

While becoming increasingly prominent on the international stage, Damian continued to consolidate his reputation back in his native UK where his portrayal of Soames Forsyte in 2002's The Forsyte Saga made him a household name.

The following year was dedicated to two movies. He starred opposite Jennifer Lopez and Robert Redford in the drama An Unfinished Life, before starting work on Brides, a tale of Greek war brides in the 1920s.

While his career has gone from strength to strength, Damian's personal life has born the brunt of exacting work commitments. He parted from long-term girlfriend Katie Razzall in 2003, explaining that his hectic work schedule made his relationship with the Channel 4 producer hard to sustain. However, shortly afterwards he found a new romance with The Queen star Helen McCrory and the two got engaged in early 2006. The pair welcomed their first child, daughter Manon, on September 8 that year and plan to wed in the summer of 2007.

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