Me and Orson Welles

Me and Orson Welles
Me and Orson Welles

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Linklater
Produced by Ann Carli
Richard Linklater
Marc Samuelson
Written by Holly Gent Palmo
Vincent Palmo Jr.
Robert Kaplow (Novel)
Starring Zac Efron
Christian McKay
Claire Danes
Ben Chaplin
Music by Michael J McEvoy
Cinematography Dick Pope
Editing by Sandra Adair
Distributed by Freestyle Releasing
Warner Bros.
Madman Entertainment
Release date(s) September 5, 2008 (2008-09-05) (Toronto)
02009-11-25 November 25, 2009
(United States)
02009-12-04 December 4, 2009
(United Kingdom)
Running time 107 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $25 million[1]
Box office $2,325,045[1]

Me and Orson Welles is a 2009 period-drama film directed by Richard Linklater and starring Zac Efron, Christian McKay, and Claire Danes. Based on Robert Kaplow's novel of the same name, the story, set in 1937 New York, tells of a teenager hired to perform in Orson Welles's stage production of Julius Caesar, where he becomes attracted to a career-driven production assistant.

The film was shot in the Isle of Man, London, and New York in February, March, and April 2008, and was released in the United States on November 25, 2009 and the United Kingdom on December 4, 2009.



In New York in 1937, 17-year-old Richard Samuels (Efron) meets theatre director Orson Welles (McKay), who unexpectedly offers him the role of Lucius in Julius Caesar, Broadway's first Shakespearean production, at the Mercury Theatre. Welles is having an affair with the leading actress while his wife is pregnant. Richard finds ambitious production assistant Sonja Jones (Danes) is attracted to him.

Welles tells Richard a few days before the premiere that he is worried, because he has recently had nothing but good luck; he fears that he will finally have bad luck with the premiere, and that the play will be a flop. During rehearsals, Richard accidentally sets off the sprinkler system, but persuades Welles he was not responsible, and that anyway, this was the bad luck that he needed.

Welles decides the entire production crew would benefit from a coupling game, and Richard cheats to ensure he is paired with Sonja. Richard spends the night with Sonja, but becomes jealous when she spends the next night with Welles. He confronts Welles, mentions his pregnant wife, and is fired. An apparent reconciliation follows, and Richard performs on the first night. The anti-fascist adaptation of Caesar is a huge success, but Richard is told he is still fired.

The broken-hearted but wiser Richard finds a new girlfriend, a young aspiring playwright whom he met in a music store at the film's beginning.[2]



Holly Gent Palmo and Vincent Palmo Jr. adapted the film's screenplay from Robert Kaplow's novel of the same name, about a teenager (in reality, then 15 year old Arthur Anderson who played Lucias in Welles production[12]) involved in the founding of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre.[5] After receiving funding from CinemaNX, a production company backed by the Isle of Man film fund, and an offer from Framestore Features to co-finance the film, Richard Linklater came on board to direct Me and Orson Welles.[5] Zac Efron signed on as the lead in early-January 2008,[3] claiming he decided to take the role of Richard Samuels because "It's a completely different project than I've ever done before,"[13] while Claire Danes joined the cast as the protagonist's love interest Sonja Jones in late January.[5] Before he was cast, Christian McKay had experience playing Welles in a one-man show in a small New York theatre.[14]

"We went in at the deep end by taking Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles out of New York to shoot on the Isle of Man and at Pinewood. With the dollar rate fairly consistent at 2 to 1 against us, we really did show that we could put together a competitive financing and producing package."
— CinemaNX chairman Steve Christian[15]

Me and Orson Welles underwent filming in the Isle of Man, Pinewood Studios, London and New York from February to April 2008.[16] Filming in London commenced first in mid-February,[13] before scenes in the Isle of Man were shot on a schedule from February 24 to March 14, 2008, where filming locations included Gaiety Theatre and various other parts of Douglas.[2][6] During filming in Douglas, Efron and Danes believe they sighted a ghost, or "supernatural" being, outside a window on set at Gaiety Theatre.[17]

Filming in Britain commenced again in late March, where the crew filmed for six weeks at Pinewood Studios.[18] Other locations included Crystal Palace Park, where a facade of New York's Mercury Theatre was set up for a scene.[19] Actor James Tupper claimed that the best replica of an old New York theatre they could find was in England, while many of the actors who filled the company were from the Royal Shakespeare Company.[18] The production crew only briefly visited New York; photographs were taken and footage shot to be added into the film as digital effects. Every exterior shot was filmed on a single street built at Pinewood Studios with a greenscreen at one end; different angles and slightly altered set designs were used between shots to make the street appear different each time.[20]


Select footage of Me and Orson Welles was screened at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival[21] where financing and sales agency Cinetic Media were looking to sell the film to a distributor.[22] Although, before its Cannes premiere, The Hollywood Reporter predicted that the film would attract distributors with Linklater's résumé and Efron's teen "heartthrob" status to appeal to a younger demographic,[23] Me and Orson Welles failed to secure any American acquisitions.[21] Its first full screening was at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, running from September 4–13, 2008.[24] In spite of its failure to find a buyer at Cannes, Toronto's co-director Cameron Bailey predicted that it would be "one of the hottest films" in the lineup,[25] Anne Thompson of Variety magazine also believed that the film would be one of "only a few lucky winners" to secure a seven-figure deal.[26] Again, however, the film's distribution rights were not purchased and it went on to show at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.[27] In May 2009, production company CinemaNX announced that it would distribute Me and Orson Welles itself, sharing marketing and advertising costs with Vue Entertainment.[28] It was screened at the Woodstock Film Festival in September 2009, where Linklater was honored as the winner of the 2009 Maverick Award,[29] opened the New Orleans Film Festival on October 9, 2009,[30] and was screened at the St. Louis International Film Festival in November 2009.[31]

The film was released on November 25, 2009, in the United States,[32] and on December 4, 2009, in the United Kingdom.[33] IndieWIRE reported,

The do-it-yourself release of Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles got off to a very nice start, averaging $15,910 from its four theaters, the highest PTA of all debuting films. … While Orson Welles is one the first examples of such a high-profile film going to the DIY route, if it proves successful, it's going to be done a lot more in the future.[34]

As of January 26, 2010, the movie had grossed a total of $1,107,440 in the United States.[1]


Critical response

Since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, reviews for Me and Orson Welles have generally been favorable. It currently holds an 83% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[35] as well as a weighted average score of 73 out of 100 on Metacritic.[36] The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert called the film "one of the best movies about the theater I've ever seen".[37] Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film for its "terrific acting" and called it "a must for lovers and students of the theater".[38] Variety magazine's Todd McCarthy labelled McKay's performance as "an extraordinary impersonation" of Welles, though he wrote that "Efron never feels like a proper fit for Richard".[39] Karen Durbin of The New York Times praised McKay's performance of Welles as he brings "a watchful, assessing and subtly excited gaze that makes him thrilling and a little dangerous."[40]

"I've never seen a backstage movie that was truer to the experience of putting on a show," wrote Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout, who reserved special praise for the design team's recreation of Welles' production of Julius Caesar. "Like most Welles stage shows, alas, this one left few traces," Teachout wrote. "No part of the production was filmed, and nothing else survives but the design sketches and some still photographs taken in 1937. ... What makes Me and Orson Welles uniquely interesting to scholars of American drama is that Mr. Linklater's design team found the Gaiety Theatre on the Isle of Man. This house closely resembles the old Comedy Theatre on 41st Street, which was torn down five years after Julius Caesar opened there. Using Samuel Leve's original designs, they reconstructed the set for Julius Caesar on the Gaiety's stage. Then Mr. Linklater filmed some 15 minutes' worth of scenes from the play, lit according to Jean Rosenthal's plot, accompanied by Marc Blitzstein's original incidental music and staged in a style as close to that of the 1937 production as is now possible." Teachout wrote that he "was floored by the verisimilitude of the results."[41]


On 21 January 2010, it was announced that Christian McKay had received a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor, for his role as Orson Welles.[42]

Home media

On August 17, 2010, Warner Home Video released Me and Orson Welles on DVD (ISBN 1-4198-9754-3) for exclusive sale at Target in the United States.[43] Entertainment One Films released the DVD in Canada on the same date.[44]


  1. ^ a b c "Me and Orson Welles (2009) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-02-01. 
  2. ^ a b "Me and Orson Welles". Government of the Isle of Man. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  3. ^ a b "Zac Efron in 'Me and Orson Welles'". Entertainment Weekly. 2008-01-18.,,20172519,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  4. ^ a b Finn, Natalie (2008). "Zac Efron Gets Schooled by Orson Welles". E!. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  5. ^ a b c d Dawtrey, Adam (2008-01-31). "Claire Danes joins Linklater film". Variety. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  6. ^ a b "Actor James Tupper to sample Isle of Man scenery". Isle of Man Today. 2008-03-10. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  7. ^ a b c "Efron's Me & Orson Welles to Start Filming". 2008-02-05. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  8. ^ King, Susan (2008-12-27). "'Revolutionary Road's' Zoe Kazan bucks family tradition". Los Angeles Times.,0,1599447.story. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  9. ^ Shenton, Mark (2009-01-28). "London's Arts Theatre to Reopen with Stage Adaptation of Gardner McKay's Toyer". Playbill. Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  10. ^ ""Me and Orson Welles" production notes (spoilers)". 2008-09-07. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  11. ^ Bamigboye, Baz (2009-04-30). "Hannah tangles with the sinister side of the web". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  12. ^ Byrnes, Paul (2010-07-31). "Me and Orson Welles". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  13. ^ a b Adler, Shawn (2008-02-07). "Zac Efron Gets Serious For 'Orson Welles And Me'". MTV. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  14. ^ Clarke, Cath (2009-10-15). "First sight: Christian McKay". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  15. ^ Dawtrey, Adam (2008-05-18). "CinemaNX boards trio". Variety. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  16. ^ Richards, Olly (2008-02-01). "Claire Danes, Me And Orson Welles". Empire. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  17. ^ Fletcher, Alex (2008-03-13). "Efron scared by ghost on 'Orson Welles'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  18. ^ a b Schaefer, Glen (2008-07-08). "James Tupper comes down from the Trees". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  19. ^ Lee, Cara (2008-04-04). "Film makers find Crystal Palace Park to be the perfect setting". Croydon Guardian. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  20. ^ Dawtrey, Adam (2008-10-16). "Director P.O.V.: Richard Linklater". Variety. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  21. ^ a b Kaufman, Anthony (2008-05-27). "Weak U.S. Market Reflected at Cannes". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  22. ^ Thompson, Anne (2008-05-20). "Buyers proceed with caution at Cannes". Variety. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  23. ^ Goldstein, Gregg; Zeitchik, Steven (2008-05-16). "Tasty titles tempt Cannes buyers". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2008-05-21. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  24. ^ Garcia, Chris (2008-08-13). "Linklater's latest at Toronto". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  25. ^ Knegt, Peter (2008-08-19). "Toronto Co-Director Cameron Bailey". IndieWIRE. Retrieved 2008-08-25. [dead link]
  26. ^ Thompson, Anne (2008-08-21). "Independents change tactics". Variety. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  27. ^ Garcia, Chris (2009-03-18). "Linklater's new film to screen at SXSW". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  28. ^ Kemp, Stuart (2009-05-14). "CinemaNX signs 3-pic deal with Vue". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2009-06-06. [dead link]
  29. ^ Lussier, Germain (2009-04-29). "Richard Linklater named 2009 Maverick Award winner by the Woodstock Film Festival". Times Herald-Record. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  30. ^ Scott, Mike (2009-09-16). "New Orleans Film Festival lineup to feature bold-faced names". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2009-09-18. 
  31. ^ Williams, Joe (2009-09-16). "Film festival has strong local cast". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  32. ^ "Richard Linklater Gets Long-Awaited Release Date for Orson Welles Biopic". Paste. 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  33. ^ "Efron films love story with Danes". Press Association. 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  34. ^ Knegt, Peter. "Box Office 2.0: The Curious Case of Orson Welles, IndieWIRE. December 2, 2009.
  35. ^ "Me and Orson Welles movie reviews - Rotten Tomatoes/". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  36. ^ "Me and Orson Welles reviews at". Metacritic. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  37. ^ Ebert, Roger (2009-12-09). "Me and Orson Welles". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  38. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk (2008-09-07). "Film Review: Me and Orson Welles". The Hollywood Reporter.!2135715977&&rid=11629. Retrieved 2008-09-10. [dead link]
  39. ^ McCarthy, Todd (2008-09-08). "Me and Orson Welles". Variety. Retrieved 2008-09-10. 
  40. ^ Durbin, Karen (2008-09-10). "Dazzling Performances to Gild the Résumés". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  41. ^ Teachout, Terry, "Relishing a Lost Production". The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2010. "You will never get any closer to the Welles Julius Caesar than by watching Me and Orson Welles, whose DVD version also includes a special feature comprising footage of the reconstructed scenes, not all of which made the final cut."
  42. ^ "Me & Orson Welles Scoops Major Bafta Nomination". 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2010-01-24. [dead link]
  43. ^ DVD Town, August 17, 2010
  44. ^ Entertainment One Home Video

External links

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