ME AND ORSON WELLES is a fascinating glimpse of what it might have been like to work with Welles during his enfant terrible period. The film, interesting though the subject matter is, succeeds because of the way Christian McKay become Welles in all his brilliant, infuriating glory. The first thing I wanted to know when I talked with McKay and the film’s director, Richard Linklater, on December 1, 2009, is how they managed to resurrect Welles without falling into the trap of mimicry. There were also the problems of recreating a legendary stage production, Julius Caesar, done in modern dress and with a distinct commentary on the Fascism then rampant in Europe, and finding 1937 New York in in the 21st century.
ME AND ORSON WELLES, a retelling of Welles’ legendary 1937 restaging of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in modern dress, finding interesting correlations with the rise of Fascism at that time. Welles, played by McKay, is introduced through the eyes of Richard, a stage-struck New York high school kid who, through a combination of chance and chutzpah lands a small role in the production. Transported into the intoxicating world of New York theater, and more particularly that of Welles’ version of it, he witnesses firsthand the mix of arrogance, genius, and pineapple juice that drives Welles, and the chaos that creates a production that made history. The film co-stars Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin, Zoe Kazan, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly and James Tupper as Joseph Cotton. Linklater directed from a script by Holly Gent Palmo and Vince Palmo, based on the book by Robert Kaplow.
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