Let me just say off the bat, I have never seen High School Musical 1, 2 or 8. I'm one of those people who will automatically dislike someone or something if it's overexposed (except you R.Pattz...heart ya).
That's how I felt about Zac Efron initially. I just didn't get what the hype was about aside from his too perfectly placed hair.
Then I saw Zac do Saturday Night Live, which he rocked, and also saw his schtick on Entourage. That's what made me start to realize he wasn't another teenybopper douche bag and actually had a sense of humor. Hence, when I shamelessly became a Zefron fan.
So I gladly took the opportunity recently to go screen Z.E.'s new film, Me and Orson Welles, otherwise known as the movie where Zac Efron tries to act.
Here's what you can expect:
Efron's now cemented a great career ahead. I'm not giving anything away about the movie except I was very pleasantly surprised.
For those of you lovingly on Twitter who bet me $10 Zac couldn't pull it off, I'll accept cash, check or credit 'cause I think he totally did.
Whether it was Zac's decision or his team's to have him pass on Footloose, that was a brilliant move. Me and Orson Welles is definitely going to give him a leg up on his teenthrob competition since it showcases Z's bit of diversity.
Will Zac win an Oscar for this performance? No, but that's not the point. I think he totally proved himself worthy of being able to step outside the typecast of only being able to dance, sing and look pretty (although he does serenade us a bit in this flick).
Bottom line is for those of you expecting High School Musical: The College Years, this isn't it. But any of you who are mature Zac fans or who just want to check out a movie with great acting (Christian McKay was amazing) and directing, go for it on Nov. 25.
And yes, Zac's still looked very sexy, even in his period-piece ensemble, as he spat a few sexual one-liners. He's of age, so I'm allowed to say that.
he trouble with coming-of-age movies is that it’s hard for them to break beyond formula. You know the drill: teenager has life-changing experience (usually over a set time, such as a summer or a semester for example) in which he or she experiences romance, adventure and a little unfairness, all of which will gently push them into the exciting world of grown-ups.
It’s been a strong year at the movies if you like that sort of thing, and I do. An Education (though overrated) and Adventureland (underrated!) were both good, and now we have the most imaginative of the unofficial triptych; Richard Linklater’s playful Me and Orson Welles.
Teen icon Zach Efron (High School Musical, ask your niece) stars as Richard, a New York high school student with aspirations to the theatre, dahling. Fate comes crashing into his life one afternoon when he’s passing by a new theatre, The Mercury, and meets a rising young actor and director by the name of Orson Welles.
Savvy enough to lie about his ukulele-playing prowess, young Richard is promptly cast in a small role in Welles’s forthcoming play. In the run-up to the chaotic production’s opening night, the young thesp learns about acting, theatre, and of course, life.
While this is a fun premise, the portrayal of a larger-than-life figure like Orson is a tricky one. If the performance is too small, it won’t feel like Welles, if it’s too big, it might veer into caricature. Christian McKay, who looks just like Orson, gets it right. A whirlwind of ideas, talent, ego, anger and charisma, McKay’s Welles is believable as a pied piper to actors and investors. At this time the 22-year-old was a radio star and, as he did later in life, Welles ploughed much of his wages into his real passion. In this case, it was his theatre troupe and his now legendary, modern-dress version of Julius Caesar.
Ephron as Richard is appropriately wide-eyed and charming. His musical background appears in small glimpses and he moves with the showy flourish of a dancer and actor – a sidestep here, a juggle there…It’s easy to see why Welles would want him around. Though it might be premature to adorn Ephron with comparisons to other former pin-ups Depp or DiCaprio, he has potential and Me and Orson Welles is a step in the right direction. He’s wise to get involved with a director like Richard Linklater at this stage of his career.
You don’t have to know much about Welles and his friends to enjoy this film, but it helps enormously. It’s fun to see a young Joseph Cotton chasing tail, and to see Welles at the cusp of legend, when his future was blindingly bright and his name was synonymous with promise, fame and true greatness. Now, while he’s still considered a genius, he’s almost become as well-known for his adversities and stillborn projects as he is for his completed work.
Me and Orson Welles is an optimistic film, though. Even though it takes place in 1937 when (as one character puts it) “the whole world seems to be falling apart” and it doesn’t shy away from the occasional cruelty of showbiz, it’s about the power of art, the romance of theatre and the promise of at least one burgeoning career.
Blog: Robert in the Underworld
Effortlessly imagining the heady world of 1930s New York theatre, Richard Linklaker’s (Dazed and Confused, School of Rock) follow up to the disappointing Fast Food Nation, is an engaging and smartly scripted coming of age trip through the drama of life on the stage.
Teen song and dance man Zac Efron (High School Musical, 17 Again) is undoubtedly the main draw as a young actor who gets his dream break with Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre Company. In just one week, Efron’s green but determined Richard Samuels goes from star-struck wannabe to Broadway debuting Shakespearian actor. Along the way he finds romance with an older, sophisticated theatre assistant (Claire Danes) and painfully witnesses at first hand the mysteries of Welles’ genius and artistic temperament.
First of all Efron is fine – likeable and lively as the wide-eyed innocent, he brings a vitality to the role that his young fans will surely appreciate. Not exactly a stretch of a character for him, but one that he plays to good effect. And of course, his hair and teeth look great.
The film is, however, all about the magic of Orson Welles and the storming performance of newcomer Christian McKay, who manages to capture Welles’ every nuance and tick with alarming accuracy. From the first bellowed boom of the famous Wellsian tones McKay announces his arrival on screen as a major talent. His Orson is fantastic; funny, erudite, charismatic, manic and hugely intelligent. In short, the movie is worth going to see on the strength of this performance/impression alone.
Strong support from a cast including Brits Eddie Marsden (so good in Mike Leigh’s recent Happy Go Lucky) and Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line) lends an extra bit of class to an already high quality production but in truth this is McKay’s – and Orson’s – show. The story is lightweight stuff and the style and tone will not win any awards for originality. What sets it apart is McKay’s extraordinary portrayal. Once again Orson is the star of the show, which is, of course, the only way he would have had it.
Blog: Me and Zac Efron
My future husband, Zac Efron, is in a new film; and last night I went to see it. It’s a far cry from his High School Musical and Hairspray days, but it does involve him playing a ukulele disguised as a lute, which is good enough for me. Also, he’s still so pretty and I love him.
The film’s called Me and Orson Welles, and Efron stars as the youngest member of the Mercury Theatre company. The plot centres around the run up to the launch of Welles’ stage version of ‘Caesar’.
Being utterly ignorant of Orson Welles, his work, and his history, I was a bit lost throughout the movie – but I still enjoyed it. It’s funny, touching, thought-provoking and a fascinating insight into the imposing character of Welles. The actor playing the man did such a good job that I was slightly intimidated to see him walk into the room after the movie for a Q&A session with the audience.
The film was showing as part of the IFI’s Orson Welles Season, hence the Q&A session with Christian McKay (Welles). He regaled us with tales of hating pop music, meeting Paul McCartney, and small girls injuring themselves in an effort to get a glimpse of the Zefron during filming.
Some of Welles’ classic films are showing at the IFI all this week, and I’d very much like to go and see them after having my interest piqued by the film. Click here for details on showtimes!
I’d love to go into more detail on reviewing Me and Orson Welles, but I don’t think I’d do it justice – in fact, I slumped down in my seat a little when the guy interviewing McKay said that we were ‘an educated audience’. Cough. Eh, ok. Suffice it to say that I know nothing about the man himself, or who Zac Efron’s character was supposed to be (Richard Burton? I’m still not sure) – but I still enjoyed it immensely. The fantastic cast also included Claire Danes, who I love, and will have over for dinner after I become Mrs Efron.
What amused me the most, however, was the horde of nerdy girls clustered around McKay after the film was over – it was his very own Zac Efron moment. Bless. Thanks to Madame Editrix for bringing me along. I promise you can be my bridesmaid when I marry Zac.
Blog: Etre moral, etre sincere
Yesterday we went to a preview screening of Me and Orson Welles (2008). In spite of having a questionable actor (but a worldwide celebrity) Zac Efron playing a teen wannabe actor who gets a small part in Welles' 1937 theatrical production of Julius Caesar, this film is an extraordinary tribute to Orson Welles. Welles is played by Christian McKay, originally trained as a musician, and in fact was not quite known as an actor before this film, so that when Richard Linklater (the director) was looking for funding, all the big Hollywood companies decided to not give him money (consequently, the movie was almost entirely made on the Isle of Man). However, before doing this movie McKay used to do a one man show Rosebud where he portrayed Orson Welles, so it's not a huge surprise that his performance was really thorough. What is quite extraordinary though is how McKay's energy makes us almost forget that a 36 years old actor is playing a 22 years old prodigy director in this film... a truly theatrical casting solution, almost unbelievable for the contemporary approach to cinema. All in all, I urge you to watch this film, it's totally worth it.
Blog: Reveries of Revelry
Last week, we screened Rick Linklater's new film, Me and Orson Welles, in my producing class. It won't be widely released until Thanksgiving, so it was a nice treat to get a sneak preview.
The film stars Zac Efron as Richard, a regular old 1930s high schooler who happens to win the bit part of Lucius in Orson Welles' stage production of 'Julius Caesar'. It follows the characters through the week leading up to the show's Broadway debut, as Welles takes Richard under his wing... for the time being.
Though having big names like Efron, Claire Danes, as well as Richard Linklater, the film had a rough time finding distribution. I'm interested to see who actually goes out to see this film - Linklater fans? Efron devotees? People who know/care about Orson Welles? Period piece theater-goers?
It's very well-made, with beautiful visuals, a fitting, jazzy 1930s score and a hilarious portrayal of the bullying Orson Welles by Christian McKay. I wouldn't classify myself a huge Efron fan, but he gives a noteworthy performance in this film - one unlike any of his previous tweeny bopper roles. Only con: I found the ending a tad cheesy, but I'll let you decide for yourself.
November 11th: Houston CinemaArtsFest screening, tickets here (Richard)
November 12th: Film Independent Screening w/ Q&A (Richard), LA
November 13th: CBS' Washington Unplugged (streams online 12:30PM EST)
November 18th: UK premiere (all presumably)
November 19th: Picturehouse at Notting Hill Gate screening with Q&A (Zac, Claire, Richard);
This event will be simulcast to other Picturehouse theaters
November 21st: Isle of Man premiere (Zac and Richard)
November 22nd: St. Louis International Film Festival screening
November 23rd: The View (Zac)
Apple Store Soho Event (Richard)
NY premiere (all presumably)
November 25th: Limited release in NY and LA
November 30th: Austin, TX prem (Zac, CM, RL per here, tix on sale 11/10)
December 4th: UK Release
Limited US expansion (per BOM)
Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, DC, Houston, Louisville, Philadelphia, San Diego, SF (per twitter)
December 6th: British Independent Film Awards (Christian)
December 11th: Canada Release
Another US expansion (per BOM)
BBC Switch Radio Show (from ZAAngels)
Movie Mom interview
Washington Post interview
InStyle December 2009
News of the World
Zac And Claire Do DC from mediabistro.com/FishbowlDC
Actors Zac Efron and Claire Danes were in DC yesterday for a screening of "Me and Orson Welles" at the AMC in Georgetown. Director Richard Linklater joined the stars for press at CBS and WaPo earlier that afternoon, as well as a visit to the White House-- with someone who's no stranger to Hollywood, Kal Penn.
The Georgetown Ritz was the site of the pre-screening red carpet. Washington Life's John Arundel, The Hill's Christina Wilkie and Mix 107.3's Tommy McFly all got a few questions in. But it was "kid correspondent" Jocelyn, Susanna Quinn's daughter, who stole the show!
The first few rows of the theater last night were filled with teeny-bopper girls for the PG-13 screening. WaPo co-sponsored a Q&A after the movie's showing with Efron, Danes and Linklater. "Let's not get hysterical," WaPo educational reporter and moderator warned Efron's adoring fans. Americans for the Arts' Bob Lynch also joined the conversation- this is a cause the actors and director support and discussed with Penn and White House reps yesterday.
This is one of Efron's first films since "High School Musical" fame. While Danes admitted she wasn't familiar with his previous work, Efron said he learned a lot from the more mature actress and that he enjoyed the change of pace.
Another Efron, Danes fan? Or maybe just a supporter of the arts in schools? FBDC also spotted WaPo's Jonathan Capehart in the screening's audience.
Though there were plenty of fans staking them out in the Ritz lobby, Efron, Danes and Linklater had drinks there with just a small group after.
Some Articles/Interviews with Richard
Film Independent (FIND) Interview with Richard
Richard Linklater, the director who brought the term Slacker into the popular lexicon with his 1991 independent film, has now ventured into the life of a young Orson Welles with his latest film, Me and Orson Welles. The film, set in 1937 New York, chronicles the brief life of the famed Mercury Theatre. Founded by Welles and John Houseman, the theater staged novel and experimental theater, including a modern version of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar set in fascist Italy. Welles was only 22 at the time, but shook the theater world with his inventive ideas. In what some see as a surprising move, Linklater cast High School Musical star Zac Efron in a pivotal role. Despite some of the criticism Linklater received for giving Efron the lead, the director is firm in his support, saying Efron more than holds his ground against the thunderous Welles, played by British actor Christian McKay.
Are you a big fan of Orson Welles?
Welles kind of falls into his own category, doesn't he? There are some filmmakers that inspire you to pick up a camera. He is a particular genius. You don't look at Citizen Kane and say ‘oh, I can do that.' You say, ‘oooh.' You have this respect that goes beyond being a fan or disliking or liking. You have to deal with him on a different level.
What is your favorite of his films?
I have seen all his films. I have seen Citizen Kane many times. I've lost count of how many times I have seen some of his films. After this film I have more knowledge about him, but I am not one of those obsessives.
What appealed to you about turning the novel into a film?
I thought it was a fascinating moment in Welles' life. Digging into his early career was really fun. When people think of Welles they jump to War of the Worlds and then later to Hollywood. But if you look at the years 1936 through 1940, it's incredible the life he was living. He was floating above everything. It is a wonderful moment in his life. This isn't a bio-pic, but it was just a week in his life in this moment in his life. To recreate a moment that is now become more and more obscure with time was kind of fun.
It was a unique time in American theater and entertainment, wasn't it?
Oh yeah. It was not only Orson Welles but Clifford Odets, Elia Kazan, and others. Welles was the right guy at the right time. Everything was ripe for reinvention. It was the air they were breathing and he did it so well. He was the right genius at that moment in time to really shake things up in American culture. In film, he probably would have done much better in a different era when independent filmmaking existed. He is the martyr for all independent filmmakers.
It's hard to believe he was only 22 when he founded the Mercury Theatre...
He was a guy who was so self confident; and that voice-he just had that aura. He knew he was acting in a huge drama of his own life. He wanted to be entertaining at all times. He was going to do things with a certain flair. He must have been a pretty exhilarating guy to be around at the time.
Some of your fans have wondered how it was that Zac Efron was cast as the lead?
Anyone who says that hasn't seen the movie. As soon as they see the movie, they never ask that again. I have no preconceptions about my actors. His performance was not surprising to me. I have a good track record with casting over the long haul. Would I cast someone who wasn't perfect for my film? He didn't get the film financed, the American industry didn't want to have anything to do with this movie-even with Zac. It's a really demanding part. He could have disappeared (next to Welles' character.) But he is a movie star. He goes toe to toe with Orson. I had to get someone who wouldn't become wallpaper. I had a meeting with him and ten seconds in I knew I had my guy.
Did you film in New York?
No. We were UK based. This New York is long gone. We built 41st Street in Pinewood Studios. West 41st Street today is such a commercial place. In its time, the Mercury was a ramshackle shut down theater that they picked up on a lease. It was a low budget theater for the people during the Depression. For all its notoriety the Mercury Theatre only lived for two years.
Is it true you would have loved to have been a ‘40s movie director like Vincent Minnelli?
Part of me does. I look at the great careers like Howard Hawkes, Billy Wilder, John Huston, John Ford, Preston Sturges-from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Minnelli is one of my favorites. He jumped genres so well-his musicals and his melodramas. I would like to sneak in a crime film and an occasional western into my career. He used the system to make wonderful art.
Do you think it's harder to make independent films now than when you started out with Slacker?
I am lucky I got Slacker made. We had to go to Europe to get it financed. [Independent film] as we knew it is over. Slacker was self financed. But filmmakers of my generation, from the 90s and most of the 2000 got a pretty good run for getting specialty films in Hollywood made. I think that run is pretty much over. So many of those distributors have disappeared or are on life support. That is just the cyclical nature of the business. The audience is still there, though.
What are you planning to do next?
I have four or five projects that I hope happen. I'm not really sure. Two of them are contemporary comedies and two are period pieces. They are all pretty personal to me. I just go from one film to the next hoping to get the next one made.
Blackbook Magazine: Richard Linklater on What Makes an Icon
An icon is someone who floats above the culture. Consider Orson Welles, the subject of my upcoming film Me and Orson Welles, and an icon if there ever was one. He was a larger-than-life personality and immense talent who has come to mean a great deal to many people. But the more you study his life, the more unknowable he becomes. He was a notoriously unreliable narrator. He never distinguished between fact and fiction. Everything -- from Shakespeare to his own personal history -- was open to reinterpretation.
Even though most of us know Orson Welles by name, or at least by Citizen Kane, none of us really knows him. When you’re an icon, you’re not just a person—you’re a myth. Perhaps that’s good for a certain kind of ego, but it’s not good for an artist. People think they have you figured out. Being an icon can be a curse.
And yet, the supremely talented have a way of upending expectations. Truly creative people are never fixed, they’re never simple, they’re always works in progress, they’re always moving. The late Paul Newman, for example, filled his career with iconic performances. In the hands of a lesser actor, they might not have been memorable at all. Every time we thought we had him pegged, he would do something different.
When thinking about the definition of an icon—which, like “genius,” is a word I don’t use lightly—I always look to the elders. Bob Dylan is a living icon. Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen are living icons. Kurt Cobain was all the rage during the last three or four years of his life, but icon status, because of his youth, probably wasn’t official until after he died. Icons have bodies of work that stand up over time, and are always changing—as are our relationships to them.
I think about my feelings toward Welles over the years. At some points in my life, I thought he was a hero. At others, I focused on the flaws in his personality. Trying to make a movie about him has made me reconsider my position yet again. I only have understanding, love and forgiveness for him now, even though people keep trying to convince me he was a badly behaved enfant terrible.
Today, you can click a button and watch all three of James Dean’s movies. You can see all of Marilyn Monroe’s films whenever you want. We’ll be able to listen to Michael Jackson and watch him dance forever. The performances, rich to begin with, have become even more layered and infused with various meanings, because we bring so much knowledge to watching them.
Also just a link to this one, but Richard talked to student Ismail of the CBBC and that interview is here.
A few twitters
Oh and one last thing, apparently Tesco will be distributing the MAOW UK DVD when it comes out eventually - details here.
After all that work I'm hungry, lol: