Following news of his wife’s passing at the age of 52, Billions actor Damian Lewis wrote a tribute to the late Helen McCrory for the Sunday Times, praising her skill as an actress, strength as a partner and mother to their two children Manon and Gulliver, and her unflagging sense of humor, even when undergoing treatment for cancer. “Only a couple of weeks ago she said to us from her bed, ‘I want Daddy to have girlfriends, lots of them, you must all love again, love isn’t possessive,’” recalls Lewis. “‘But you know, Damian, try at least to get though the funeral without snogging someone.’”
“I’ve never known anyone able to enjoy life as much. Her ability to be in the present and enjoy the moment was inspirational,” the actor writes of the prolific stage and screen actress, known to many for her turns on Peaky Blinders and in the Harry Potter film franchise. “Nor was she interested in navel-gazing. No real interest in self-reflection; she believed in looking out, not in. Which is why she was able to turn her light so brightly on others.”
“Already I miss her,” Lewis writes of McCrory, whom he met in 2003 as his castmate in Five Gold Rings at London’s Almeida Theater; the pair later married in 2007. “She has shone more brightly in the last months than you would imagine even the brightest star could shine. In life, too, we had to rise to meet her. But her greatest and most exquisite act of bravery and generosity has been to ‘normalize’ her death. She’s shown no fear, no bitterness, no self-pity, only armed us with the courage to go on and insisted that no one be sad, because she is happy. I’m staggered by her. She’s been a meteor in our life.”
The actor also reminisces about a surprising run-in between his wife and actress Lauren Bacall when the latter visited McCrory’s dressing room following a production of Uncle Vanya. “‘Thank you so much, your Sonya moved me to tears,’” Bacall reportedly told McCrory. “There was an awkward pause. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. I think you want Emily next door - Emily Watson, she played Sonya.’ Betty was horrified: ‘Oh my god, I’m so sorry!’ Helen riposted: ‘That’s alright, Ms. Hepburn. I’m glad you enjoyed the show.’ Lauren Bacall threw her head back and laughed and bellowed, ‘You’re my kind of dame. Let’s go out.’ And off they went into the night.” You can read his essay in full here.