Me and Orson Welles

Me and Orson Welles is a film about the 1937 Mercury Players (read: Orson Welles) stage production of Julius Ceasar in New York City, as seen by a 17-year-old Richard Samuels (Zac Efron), who somehow talks his way into a small part in the production. But what this film really is is an excellent look backstage, perhaps as good as Mike Leigh‘s Topsy-Turvy. Christian McKay is amazing as Welles, quickly letting you forget that you’re not watching the real Welles (he was robbed of an Oscar nomination). And the rest of the cast is quite good, with Efron being the weakest (but not weak) link.

I’ll give it  out of . I really enjoyed it.

I saw this at the Camera Cinema Club on 11/22/2009. A San Francisco film critic named Pam Grady was at the screening to lead the discussion (there may be spoilers below):

  • Welles was 22 when he did this production
  • He had done work for the WPA–an all African American Macbeth, and then Cradle Will Rock led him to form the Mercury Players
  • The screenplay was based on a 1993 novel
  • The sprinkler event really did happen, but during a matinee
  • Lucius was really played by a 15-year-old, but he played for more than one performance, and the actor is still alive
  • Welles did use an ambulance to get around, and made his money in radio ($1000-1500/week)
  • Christian McKay, who played Welles, was found doing a one-man Orson Welles show–he’s also in the next Woody Allen film
  • This is a very different film for director Richard Linklater, but he loved the novel
  • Zac Efron is the factor that has kept some from liking it, but Pam thought he was fine
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