A 16-year-old star of Oscar-nominated film Belfast has told how his ‘down to earth’ friend Jamie Dornan took him for rounds of golf during filming.
Young actor Lewis McAskie also revealed how Hollywood star Dame Judi Dench bought him his vintage costume from the film for his birthday.
The teenager said director Ken Branagh bonded his stars to make them feel “like family” while making the acclaimed film.
Lewis plays Will, young Buddy’s older brother whose family must choose whether or not to escape the Troubles in 1969.
It’s based on Branagh’s own experience of fleeing Belfast as a nine-year-old and the respected filmmaker made sure his stars, including newcomer Jude Hill, felt like real family.
The writer and director arranged for Lewis to play golf with Jamie Dornan, while the two younger stars splashed around in the hotel pool with Caitriona Balfe.
Branagh also shared stories from his childhood in Belfast and encouraged his stellar cast to improvise scenes.
“Ken made everything so amazing. He made us feel so comfortable,” says Lewis.
“He would do stuff like me and Jamie Dornan playing golf one of the first days we knew each other, like a son-dad bond. We all played baseball, basketball and football.
“And Caitriona was really like a mom to us. We’d go down and have fun in the pool and we’d do that with someone who’s a great actress who’s in Outlander. Now I think back and realize how much point it was really a good opportunity to play with these people.
“It was really like a family.”
The Campbell College GCSE student says Jamie Dornan became a friend and struck up a lifelong friendship with Jude.
The young star often took walks on the golf course with Lewis, while Jamie marked his last day of filming near London with a final round.
“We played each other on the last day of filming at 6:30 a.m. and he beat me by two holes. It was a close match,” he recounts.
“Jamie is very down to earth. He was like a dad to us on set and he made Jude and I so involved in everything. Even though we have such a big age difference, he’s more like a homie
“Me and Jude got along like a house on fire. It’s a friendship I’ll probably have forever.
“We would run around the hotel all day and when I was golfing on the weekends he would come and watch me play and go 18 holes with me.”
Lewis, who has been acting since she was 11, also impressed Dame Judi Dench, who earned one of the film’s seven Oscar nominations, for Best Supporting Actress.
In one of the film’s key scenes, when Jamie Dornan sings Everlasting Love at a club, the costume department put the teenager in a vintage costume, which became an unexpected birthday present.
“We had just finished filming that scene and I was standing next to Judi and she said, ‘You don’t look so good in that costume. I won’t do another scene until that costume is yours.
“It was August and it was my birthday on September 15, and I remember Judi’s assistant came to my locker that morning and she knocked on the door and brought me the suit with a small bundle of lucky silver gemstones.
“Judi wrote me a note and she said to me later that night, ‘every time you put on that costume, I want you to think of me,'” Lewis says.
He is thrilled with the film’s Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Ken Branagh and Best Supporting Actor for Ciaran Hinds.
Belfast has also been nominated for six Baftas.
Lewis admits he didn’t know Ken was a film and stage legend before making the film, which probably helped because he would have been more nervous during his auditions.
“Seven nominations is absolutely insane. I’m thrilled for Ciaran and Judi and I think they have a real chance of winning because they’re so down to earth as grandparents in this era.
“The film nominated for Best Picture is huge, and I would expect Ken Branagh to win Best Director with flying colors.
“It’s a great way to start a career for a kid my age, and I’m really proud to be in the movie.”
The talented teenager, who also helps teach acting to young children in weekly lessons with his agent Shelley Lowry, is already making his mark with another QFT film opening on February 18, Here Before, from the writer and acclaimed director Stacey Gregg.
He made history a bit by starring in the opening and closing films of last year’s Belfast Film Festival, Belfast and Here Before, in which Lewis plays the son of a family who lost their daughter.
When a new family moves in next door whose daughter bears an uncanny resemblance to the lost child, she tries to convince them that she is a reincarnation of the deceased daughter.
The young actor also worked with The Shore Oscar winners Oorlagh and Terry George on Stranger with a Camera, filming for two weeks in Tollymore, which does not yet have a release date.
And he made his first TV gig last year in ITV’s Top Ten.
“It was good to have this experience on TV because I hadn’t done much before. I hope to get another TV part soon which would be cool. At the minute I hope to get my GCSE out of the way,” he says.
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