The Washington woman who’s lured Homeland star Damian Lewis to the North East

Hollywood actor Damian Lewis with archivist Geraldine Hunwick at Newcastle University's Robinson Library.
Hollywood actor Damian Lewis with archivist Geraldine Hunwick at Newcastle University's Robinson Library.
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FROM one Washington to another –Hollywood star Damian Lewis has swapped his Homeland role to research a writer whose home village gave its name to the American capital.

The actor has been in the North East ahead of an upcoming film role, where he will play the lover of Gertrude Bell, who was born into the family of wealthy industrialists who lived in Washington New Hall.

Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell

Nicole Kidman will take on the lead character in Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert, which will be released next year, and also stars Robert Pattinson as Lawrence of Arabia.

Bell, who died in 1926 in Baghdad, was a British traveller, writer, diplomat and spy in the Middle East in the early 20th century.

Letters she wrote to Major Charles Doughty-Wylie were among the documents Damian saw when he visited Newcastle University’s Robinson Library, which holds a host of her personal papers, photographs and diaries.

Bell was a history student at Oxford and was fluent in Persian and Arabic, working for the British Government in Cairo during the First World War. She also contributed to the construction of the Iraqi state.

Her grandfather, Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, was a member of Parliament who worked alongside Benjamin Disraeli, and she gained her first experiences of politics and world affairs through him.

University librarian Wayne Connolly said: “Given the way the last series of Homeland ended, we were very pleasantly surprised to hear from Damian. The character he plays in the new film was considered the love of Gertrude Bell’s life.

“Charles Doughty-Wylie was married and they had an unconsummated affair, but it’s believed he is the reason Gertrude Bell never wed.

“Damian was extremely interested in our archive as it contains correspondence between them and was able to give him a unique perspective on their relationship.

“Now, we are looking forward to next year when the film is released and we can see the characters from one of our most important archives brought to life.”

During his visit, Damian happily posed for pictures with library staff, who said he was “extremely nice.”