Me and Orson Welles


For a movie geek like me, a film of Orson Welles’ seminal 1937 Broadway production of Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR – echoing the rise of Hitler – could not be more appealing. I’ve read about the production in four different biographies of Welles and also in John Houseman – Welles’ producer’s – autobiography. This stage production was seminal – a reduction of Shakespeare to 90 minutes, played with no interval, in modern dress, and utilising a political metaphor, with stark, modern lighting and a style of acting as rich in emotional truth as in declamatory strength. The concept of the excellent director Richard Linklater bringing this story to the screen was as enticing as anything. Unfortunately, by focusing the story on a seventeen-year-old (played ably by Zac Effron) who stumbles into the arms of the production, we don’t get nearly as much of Welles (Christian McKay) as we would like. McKay, a British actor who has seemed to come out of nowhere to play Welles, is, literally, perfect in the role, and we just want the movie to be about him, rather than Zeffron’s slightly tepid Richard, an “everyman” character with no discernable backbone. The film is a lovely – and loving – evocation of an era, a man (Welles), and a truly important moment in theatrical history – but it struggles, unfortunately, as filmic drama. The more you know about Welles himself, the more you’ll enjoy this ambitious, but flawed, movie.

2 thoughts on “Me and Orson Welles

Leave a Reply