'Legion' Director Battles Ventura Flames Alongside Firefighters

Courtesy of subject (McDowell); Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images (Fire)
Ventura Fires and Charlie McDowell

Charlie McDowell (son of Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen) was in the edit phase of an episode he helmed for the FX series when the Thomas Fire came close to his Ventura home.

Among the Hollywood homeowners affected by firres that have raged across Southern California since early December is director Charlie McDowell (son of Malcolm and Mary Steenburgen). He was in the edit phase on an episode of FX’s Legion when the Thomas Fire — which has scorched more than 237,000 acres — came dangerously close to his Ventura home.

“I have an apartment in L.A. and a house on the coast on Faria Beach,” he says. “I would go to the house at night and try to do everything I could to protect the perimeter with water, literally with a hose spraying the fires coming at my house. On Thursday [Dec. 7], the wind shifted and it came right up to the house and burned the tree on the opposite side of my fence.” His small community, he adds, pitched in to help firefighters, and at one point, "I went into full-on director mode” and filmed the conflagration.

Reached Dec. 12, producer Michael Lombardo says he’s “still assessing damage” on his Ojai ranch “but feel blessed relative to many others.” And Montecito residents Ellen DeGeneres, Rob Lowe and Don Johnson were evacuated. (Oprah Winfrey, who also owns a home there, tweeted, “Peace be still, is my prayer tonight.”) “I’m not really attached to anything except my kids and my animals, but it’s stressful,” says Johnson, fielding news on his phone during a THR photo shoot Dec. 11. “Here’s an alert. Still can’t go back."

This story first appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.