Me and Orson Welles


Story by Emily Gresbrink

The UAC Campus Film Series is drawing to a close for the 2011-2012 school year. The series offered a wide variety of films throughout the past year. This upcoming weekend, something unique will capture the minds of theatre enthusiasts and period drama fans alike.

“Me and Orson Welles,” based on the book by Robert Kaplow, is a 2009 film starring Zac Efron and Christian McKay. After a good run at a few film festivals, it was given a very limited worldwide release. Critics praised the film and its actors and honored McKay’s performance as Orson Welles with a BAFTA nomination in 2010.

The year is 1937. A young actor, Richard Samuels (Efron), runs into Orson Welles (McKay) and receives the role of Lucius in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” on Broadway. While at the theatre, Samuels meets Sonja Jones (Claire Danes), a production assistant with whom chemistry is evident from the start.

As the movie progresses, tensions begin to arise; Welles fears a flop and affairs amongst cast and crew begin to stack. The big “Oh no!” happens right before opening night — will Samuels and Jones stay paired or get pulled apart by backstage drama? And whatever will happen to Welles’ show?

My lips are sealed, friends.

What I liked best about “Me and Orson Welles” was the fairly accurate description of the theater life’s backstage momentum. Having been involved in theater since I was 7, I’ve seen my share of the drama that goes on behind the scenes. Of course, the drama I experienced was immature, but the tension and energy of a theatrical production was captured very well in the film.

As for the performances of the two lead actors, McKay has portrayed Welles in a one-man show before, and you can tell he can embody the character with precision. The intensity Welles was known for is well depicted and placed into this setting.

Now, Mr. Efron: I am not quite sure why he got top billing. Perhaps it was a hook-line-sinker move for teenagers to see a film they may normally have no interest in? I’ll give him credit — it’s a big step up from “High School Musical” and Nicholas Sparks movies, so good for him. Still, I was not a huge fan. I feel that a more seasoned actor should’ve played Samuels.

One final aspect I found to be interesting was the set design and cinematography. It was visually appealing, especially the choice of the theater in which Welles’ own Mercury Theatre is recreated. It seems quite historically accurate to the Mercury, a hub for real-life Welles’ productions — which, in this case, is important, because the anti-facist production of “Caesar” did happen.

Overall, I found “Me and Orson Welles” to be a nice period piece about the production of a theatrical play and the drama within the theater building. I would highly suggest that any theater enthusiasts and Welles fans go out and give it a run. Just get over the fact that Zac Efron is in it, and you’ll be good to go.