Kevin Spacey on Power of ‘NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage’

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CHICAGO – “Hi-diddle-dee-dee, the actor’s life for me!” Kevin Spacey, who took a considerable break from movie-acting to become Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theater in London, puts the fruit of those labors in a new documentary, “NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage.” The film chronicles the international tour of Spacey and the troupe performing William Shakespeare’s “Richard III.”

The stage tour mixed American and British actors, and essentially presents talking head interviews and exposition of the stagecraft necessary to produce the complex work. It focuses on Kevin Spacey and his capacity to embody a role, in this collaboration with director Sam Mendes, who had brought Spacey to film prominence in 1999’s “American Beauty.” The documentary is direct, somewhat fascinating and a bit redundant as the tour wears on, but still holds an attraction in the nuts and bolts, the slings and arrows, in the outrageous fortune of performing Shakespeare in some of the most exotic locations on earth.

In 2012, the Old Vic Theater company, one of oldest in existence, took a production of William Shakespeare’s “Richard III” – directed by Sam Mendes and starring Kevin Spacey as the title character – on an international tour. Along the way the staging process is broken up into the bits and pieces of performance that is necessary to collect into the whole.

Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey as Richard III in ‘NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage’
Photo credit: Tribeca Film

In addition, it is up to the cast of mixed American and English actors to deliver their interpretation of the legendary play, while at the same time enjoying some exotic locations around the world on which to stage it. Through interviews with Spacey, along with and including Mendes, Gemma Jones, Simon Lee Phillips, Maureen Anderman and other members of the cast, an insight to the traveling life of thespians is brought to life.

Credit Mendes and Spacey for using their considerable talents and visibility to reinterpret a play that is one of Shakespeare’s most prominent. During the readings on the elements of the work, it brought to mind another film – “The Goodbye Girl” (1977) – in which Richard Dreyfuss struggles in a different scenario with the same play. The spin for Spacey and Mendes was capturing the humor within the speeches and its commentary on current geopolitics (it’s done in modern dress).

There is nothing new in the talking head department, as put together by director Jeremy Whelehan – everything is wonderful and why wouldn’t it be? Spacey is wonderful, Mendes is wonderful, the troupe is wonderful and the world is wonderful. They are getting paid to perform Shakespeare, travel the globe and sell out virtually every performance. There isn’t much to complain about, which leaves most of the film to comment upon the process of staging and travelogue sightseeing along the way. There was one American blue collar actor in who can’t “f**king believe” he’s in the company, and he helps to break up the kudos a bit.

There is an impression of Spacey in the film that is revealing. He is an exacting actor, a craftsman, and he does come off a bit set apart from the other actors in that perspective. There are some company gatherings on a yacht (that Spacey provides) and some sand dune four wheeling, but in each outing our main man Spacey is shown to be apart and remote. That probably has to do with the notion of celebrity itself, and how as a audience member we dissect it. He does do an epic roll down a sand dune, which makes up for some of his over emphasized contortions in the portrayal of Richard III.

Sam Mendes
‘Richard III’ Director Sam Mendes in ‘NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage’
Photo credit: Tribeca Film

And despite the influence that Shakespeare still holds in both theater and overall society, the play as its shown in the film still has that super seriousness and actor-type gravity that characterizes stagings throughout eternity. Some of the touches that Mendes adds, such as a video screen interview that substitutes for part of the line readings are innovative, but it still comes off like the same old song. The reaction to the film might hinge on your reaction to The Bard.

The value of this filmed document is how it comments on the rewards of the actor’s life. With so much competition and heartache in the field, it is fairly “wonderful” to experience the journey with a classic play and its passionate fellow travelers.

NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage” continued its limited release in Chicago on May 2nd. See local listings for theaters and show times. It is also available for download at NowtheFilm.com. Featuring interviews with Kevin Spacey, Sam Mendes, Gemma Jones, Simon Lee Phillips and Maureen Anderman. Directed by Jeremy Whelehan. Not rated.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2014 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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