What happened next was another round of James Bond speculation, as Roger Moore made it clear that Octopussy would be his last outing as 007. Lewis was reported to be on the shortlist of replacements, but he said, "I really don't know if I am in the running. I certainly haven't been approached by Broccoli. If they did approach me, I don't know what I would say – it really would depend on what was offered. If I had to sign a seven-year contract I'd probably say 'No' just because I wouldn't want to be that tied down. I certainly wouldn't envy anyone taking over the rôle at this stage, especially if they kept to the same format. They would have to allow the next guy to be himself and bring what he has to offer to the rôle. And then, it would take at least two movies to convince the world you are Bond. Even so, I have to admit it would be fun."58 But Roger Moore decided to stay for one more film after all, so the speculation had been in vain. Lewis was reported to be writing a film script and recording an album, and he was also involved in discussions about making a television mini-series in the U.S.A., based on the Indian Cavalry during the First World War. "They want me to play a real-life hero called Wally Hamilton, who won the Victoria Cross. It sounds like a worthwhile venture,"58 he said. But the year ended quietly, with Lewis returning to panto by appearing in Babes In The Wood with his co-star from the previous year, Suzanne Dando.
By 1984, the potentially-lucrative contract with Euan Lloyd was no more. Lloyd had decided against casting Lewis in the first film saying, "An appearance (by Lewis) in The Wild Geese 2 would have been distracting so soon after the S.A.S. picture"0 The projected Falklands film was abandoned as too many other film-makers had had the same idea, and Macau had proved to be too expensive a project to pursue. Lewis was left in the lurch with a mortgage to pay and renovations to complete, and with only a commercial on the horizon. But his ongoing popularity in Europe came to the rescue, financially at least, and he was cast in the first of three 'Spaghetti Easterns' he would make for the Italian film-maker Antonio Margheriti (also known as Anthony M. Dawson). "They were crap films and I only did them for the money"'63 he said later. All three films were action adventures set in the jungles of South-East Asia, and were aimed specifically at the European market. The first of these, Codename: Wildgeese, (not connected in any way with Euan Lloyd’s Wild Geese films), saw Lewis starring alongside some established Hollywood names, including Lee van Cleef and Ernest Borgnine.
Things looked a little more promising on the artistic front later on the year, when Lewis was reported as signing a contract for a T.V. movie, in which he would play one of a pair of journalists who go off on exciting assignments. If successful, a T.V. series would follow. All press reports of this stated that the producers wanted Paul Michael Glaser to play his partner, with Robert Vaughn as their boss, but this project didn't seem to amount to anything. With another panto appearance to finish off the year, Lewis began 1985 with little on the cards apart from the next Antonio Margheriti film, Commando Leopard. His career was to suffer a further setback when a series of damaging stories about his private life appeared in the more sensationalist press, and Lewis had finally had enough. "It was getting out of hand and it had to stop," he later said, "and the only way to do that was to close the door and lead a quiet life."60 So he did, and the candid interviews came to an end. From then onwards, Lewis would only give interviews in connection with work projects.
Regular repeats of The Professionals meant he was still on T.V. screens, albeit in the character of Bodie, which helped to ensure that he would be forever associated with this character in particular, and a 'hard man' image in general. But this association was one of endearment, and he was the subject of an affectionate accolade that year when a character in a children's T.V. show was named after him - Fat Tulip's Garden featured a daredevil tortoise called Lewis Collins, who wore a crash helmet and attempted dangerous feats. In the autumn of 1985 Lewis filmed an episode of the ITV drama Robin of Sherwood as an extremely camp Sheriff of Nottingham, a portrayal which would become one of his most popular performances in later years. There was no panto appearance this Christmas, but the following summer he got the opportunity to travel to Australia to make a return to the stage for his first serious theatrical rôle in ten years, in the play Deathtrap. His performance received great acclaim, and some of his fans even flew all the way to Australia just to see him on stage, but they got a bit of a surprise: "I was cast as a homosexual and when I kissed this guy all the girls in the audience gasped. Everyone expects me to play Bodie for real."63
Lewis returned to Britain for another stint in panto, and in early in 1987 he hit the headlines again, but this time for some real-life heroics. In February he happened to be a passerby when two young girls were involved in a road accident. He and his cousin Colin Jones went to help and one girl appeared not to be breathing. Colin told the press, "After Lewis pressed her head back she gurgled, and started breathing again. I think she might have died if he hadn't been so quick. He did an excellent job."61 Lewis made a brief appearance in Carley's Web, an American T.V. film, and in October 1987 filming began on The Commander, the last of his three jungle films for Antonio Margheriti. By now, the Friendship Circle numbers had subsided from a peak of 8,000 to just 25. The fanatical fitness regime was no more, although Lewis still exercised every day, "otherwise I turn into a bionic blob."63 And he had taken up two new hobbies – sky-diving and flying. "I'm an adrenalin junkie and enjoy the thrill of it all. 63 I'm just a big kid who wants to get out and play!18 When I was in the T.A. Parachute Regiment I didn't enjoy the military-style parachuting, it used to frighten me rigid. Then I saw sky-diving and it seemed more fun."63
In early 1988, Lewis's luck seemed to change. He appeared in the pilot episode of a German T.V. series written by Brian Clemens, and he was cast in one of the lead Rôles in a major T.V. production of Jack the Ripper. This was an Anglo-American venture by Euston Films and C.B.S., and coincided with the 100th anniversary of the events that had shaken Victorian London. The writers had been given access to police files for the case, in order to make the production as authentic as possible. Due to some last-minute recasting at the insistence of C.B.S., Lewis got the part at very short notice and found that he would be playing alongside Michael Caine in what he later described as 'a kind of costume Sweeney'. "I had this great image of my relationship with Abberline, as well as my handsome moustache. I only knew I had the rôle three weeks before we began shooting, and I had short hair. Everything was wrong. I literally had to grow into Godley."60 Although Lewis had been trying to get away from his cop image, he said of this new policeman rôle, “I know it's typecasting but let's not get flash – it's a great job I couldn't afford to turn down."63 "Playing a sidekick rôle to Michael Caine is like playing a lead rôle yourself because he's such a monumental figure.60 You can learn a Hell of a lot just by standing next to him18 - you don’t feel bad being the yes-and-no man."60 According to producer David Wickes, Michael “took Lew under his wing. He even found him an American agent. He was very interested in him as an actor - he thought he was a very interesting actor."60
"If you're not on T.V., people think you've either retired or you're dead. My career has been up and down like a graph. I've had many highlights and if I ever reach another one I'll know how to cope. I've had the Rolls-Royce, the model girlfriends but if I ever get another peak I'll hold back, switch off and be pleasant."63 Lewis was again trying to diversify a little, saying, "I'm working on a screenplay at the moment but my burning ambition is to direct because it uses the grey matter. I don't think I’ll ever give up acting because there's still the old ego and the desire to do something really creative. But the British public have an image of me that I'm not sure I can escape.63 I was an action man all my life, even before I became an actor. I was a champion rifle shot at the age of fourteen, a judo expert, rode motorbikes, yet people say I am living out the part of Bodie."29