Thursday, September 2, 2010

Me and Orson Welles

Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles is the whimsical tale of a teenager (Zac Efron) who blags his way into Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre stage production of Julius Caesar in 1937. Efron falls for Mercury staffer, Claire Danes, who wants to work in the movies. Efron is harmless and his plot with Danes isn't that annoying but the real heart of the piece is Christian McKay's performance as Orson Welles which is nothing short of amazing. He doesn't look much like Welles but he captures Welles's voice, mannerisms and charisma. There's a wonderful moment when Efron follows Welles up to the CBS radio studio where they are doing a live broadcast of what sounds like The Damon Runyon Theatre. The rest of the cast has been rehearsing for a while and Welles shows up and just reads, improvising half of his lines from the book he was looking at on the way over: The Magnificent Ambersons. The reactions on the faces of other members of the cast tell the whole narrative in miniature: Orson Welles is a charmer, a conman, an egomaniac, a burning-the-candle-at-both-ends genius but my God we're lucky to be here and when our grandkids ask us for a story fifty years from now we'll tell them about the time we shared a stage once with the great man himself.
And here's Orson Welles telling one of my favourite anecdotes about He and Winston Churchill.