“No matter how successful you get, always send the elevator back down.”
This famous Jack Lemon quote is a favorite of actor Kevin Spacey and one of the reasons behind the new film, NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage, which follows 20 American and British actors on a 10-month international tour of Richard III.
“I have quietly been working on this 90-minute film over the last few years, which chronicles my latest collaboration with Sam Mendes; a stage production of Shakespeare’s Richard III,” Spacey said in a press release. “We’ve made this film for all those people who ask why the theatre means so much to us and to all actors. We’ve made this film to try to answer those questions.”
The production of Richard III was part of a larger endeavor called The Bridge Project, which was born out of a simple desire: a wish for artists, collaborators, and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic to experience one another’s work, talent, and artistry in the theater.
An Oscar and Tony winner, many people know Spacey today for his critically acclaimed role of Frank Underwood in Netflix’s hit series, House of Cards, but he has also spent the past 10 years as the artistic director of The Old Vic Theatre Company in London, overseeing all productions on the main stage, taking charge of its educational department, and working within the community for developing emerging talents. He’s also appeared in numerous productions at the Old Vic, including National Anthems, The Philadelphia Story, Speed the Plow, Richard II, Inherit the Wind and A Moon for the Misbegotten, which subsequently transferred to Broadway.
Richard III stars Spacey as the title character and is directed by Mendes, the Academy Award winning director behind Spacey’s hit film, American Beauty, and the documentary offers a unique look at the process of putting the play together, and plunges the audience into the hustle and bustle of the goings-on behind the curtain.
The documentary itself is directed by Jeremy Whelehan, associate producer of Spacey’s Beyond the Sea and assistant director of many productions Spacey helmed at the Old Vic.
“In shaping this film I wanted to submerge our audience into that live theatre moment as much as possible,” the director said in the release. “Putting us there, in the wings, in the theatre, in the present tense—to describe cinematically the power and fleeting nature of this particular kind of magic. I wanted the film audience to experience that bond and tradition by getting as close as I could to the heart and spirit of the individuals and chart their journey as a family around the world.”
The film takes its name from the first word of the famous first line of the play—“Now is the winter of our discontent,” and also because it puts the audience in the present tense, into the live moment onstage and on the journey alongside the actors.
Each of the 20 actors—including Spacey—shares his or her thoughts about their role, their personal life and what the play and tour means to them.
The production journeyed from London to the ancient Greek amphitheater in Epidaurus, to the deserts of Doha, across the Great Wall of China, through Istanbul, Sydney, Naples, San Francisco, and ultimately wound up in Brooklyn.
“This film is an insider’s look back stage at the experience of being an actor in a company: going to rehearsal every day, beginning to create a role with your director, crew and fellow actors; spending 10 months together, first at our home theatre The Old Vic, finally at our sister home the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and in between—six months on the road in many different cultures and countries forming a company,” Spacey said. “There are a multitude of challenges that come with being in a new theatre in an unknown city every few weeks. There were some tears and a lot of laughs. We became a family by sharing unforgettable moments, practicing our craft across three continents over such a long period of time.”
The film will be screened from May 2-8 at the Avalon Twin in Georgetown, but DC Theatre Scene readers can get a special discount on a digital download of the film and watch at home starting today by visiting this link and entering “DCtheatre” as the code. Proceeds from the digital release go to the The Kevin Spacey Foundation, which issues scholarships to emerging artists with a passion for the competitive worlds of performing arts and film.