Damian Lewis says Eton pupils leave with a 'precociousness' about them

Damian Lewis says Eton pupils leave with a 'precociousness' about them

03/22/2021

Damian Lewis warns old Etonians need to keep the ‘precociousness and confidence’ they leave school with in check if they are to avoid becoming arrogant

  • Actor, 50, attended £37,000-a-year Eton College but was reluctant to tell people
  • Parents warned him ‘life would be miserable’ if he didn’t keep privilege in check
  • Says Etonians leave with a confidence’ about them that they have to manage

Actor Damian Lewis has claimed Eton College students leave with a ‘precociousness’ which they have to manage in order to ensure it doesn’t slip into arrogance and entitlement.

The Homeland star, 50, who attended prep school Ashdown House in Sussex before enrolling at the £37,000-a-year institution in the 1980s, told how his parents warned him his ‘life would be miserable’ if he didn’t keep his privilege in check.

Speaking to the cricketer and commentator Mark Nicholas on the podcast Not Just Cricket, he explained that old Etonians ‘do have a confidence’ about them. 

‘That confidence is instilled in you. When it’s perverted in any way it becomes entitlement, it becomes arrogance,’ he explained.

Actor Damian Lewis has claimed Eton College students leave with a ‘precociousness’ which they have to manage in order to ensure it doesn’t slip into arrogance and entitlement. Pictured in 2016 at the Golden Globes

Lewis (pictured front centre while at Eton College) previously claimed that he would take great pride when, at school discos, he would speak to girls in his ‘unconvincing mockney’ accent and they would tell him he didn’t sound like an Etonian

‘I was never allowed to be those things by my parents, who just said, “You turn into one of those people and you’ll hear it from us. Your life will be miserable”.’ 

Lewis, who now lives in north London and is married to fellow actor Helen McCrory, 52, added: ‘You’re not going to turn into someone [arrogant] like that, just because you’re privileged enough to be at that school. 

‘Understand your privilege and concentrate on being a good guy, on being a nice person. 

‘But you do come out with a precociousness which I think can rub people up the wrong way, no question, if you’re not careful to manage it.’ 

Lewis is not the only Eton graduate to have found success in acting; Dominic West, 51, Hugh Laurie, 61, Tom Hiddleston, 40, and Eddie Redmayne, 39, all attended the private school. 

Lewis is not the only Eton graduate to have found success in acting; Dominic West, 51, Hugh Laurie, 61, Tom Hiddleston, 40, and Eddie Redmayne, 39, all attended the private school

Other notable alumni include Princes Harry and William, Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Bear Grylls.

The son of a City broker, Lewis previously admitted he was reluctant to tell people where he went to school because he was conscious of attitudes towards privilege.

He claimed that he would take great pride when, at school discos, he would speak to girls in his ‘unconvincing mockney’ accent and they would tell him he didn’t sound like an Etonian.

Lewis went on to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and pursued a successful acting career, but kept quiet about his education until ‘self-consciously’ announcing it in the wake of the 2001 series Band of Brothers because he knew it would impress Americans.

The actor’s perception of people’s attitudes towards Eton proved true when the Wolf Hall actor was invited to switch on a laser display to mark a state school’s 50th anniversary earlier this year.

The son of a City broker, Lewis previously admitted he was reluctant to tell people where he went to school because he was conscious of attitudes towards privilege (pictured with wife Helen McCrory in February 2020)

A former pupil of Acland Burghley’s in Tufnell Park, north London, tried to block the his appearance claiming Lewis’ privileged background made him unsuitable.

The petition – which only attracted 124 signatures – said the school had a ‘long and proud tradition in comprehensive education’ whereas Eton ‘represents the reproduction of privilege and inequality in the UK’.

On Lewis, it added: ‘We have nothing against him as an actor or local resident, but he is a wholly inappropriate choice for this celebration of a wonderful local comprehensive school.’

But the actor, ‘surprised’ by the petition, said the pupil missed the point of the occasion, which was about community and celebration.

In an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine in 2016, Lewis admitted he wouldn’t send his two children Manon, 14, and Gulliver, 13, to boarding school aged eight because he found boarding a ‘very violent experience’ when he was young and struggled with the hardship that comes with living apart from parents.

‘I went at eight and I think that’s very hard. You go through something which, at that age, defines you and your ability to cope,’ he told the publication.

‘There’s a sudden lack of intimacy with a parent, and your ability to get through that defines you emotionally for the rest of your life.

‘It’s a very violent experience in those first few weeks. It’s just, boom! And you deal with it.’

He also revealed he gets irritated when people claim the arts is dominated by public school children, insisting that there is no old boys’ network in theatre.   

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