HOLLYWOOD STAR TAKES ON ROLE IN WEINSTEIN-INSPIRED SHOW

by AMIT ROY

BOLLYWOOD actors have missed a trick because – unlike their Hollywood counterparts
– they do not appear on the London stage.

Back in 2002, Andrew Lloyd Webber apparently wanted Shah Rukh Khan for his new musical Bombay Dreams, but the “Badshah of Bollywood” was not to be tempted.
Perhaps the money wasn’t good enough or maybe he felt he could not take the time off when he was doing so many Hindi blockbusters all at the same time.

John Malkovich is the latest Hollywood star to appear in the West End. He is at the Garrick Theatre playing Barney Fein in Bitter Wheat, a new play written and directed by David Mamet. The character of Barney Fein is based not so subtly on that of Harvey Weinstein.

The basic plot is as follows: “The play is inspired by the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Up to now, over 80 women have come forward to describe various cases of sexual misconduct, assault and rape. Since his arrest in 2018, the Hollywood producer has been on trial.

Bitter Wheat centres around Barney Fein, a Hollywood tycoon who preys on the young and innocent in his role. Through a mythic journey, we witness Fein’s epic fall from a position of power and money to utter shame. Taking inspiration from the Weinstein scandal, Mamet’s play uses bitter humour to expose the crude reality of Hollywood.”

Hollywood stars realise that appearing on the London stage may not make them rich, but it’s good for their profile and is a testament to their acting skills.

Everyone – from Dustin Hoffman to Daryl Hannah, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Dreyfuss – and many others over the years have had a go.

Kathleen Turner “took her kit off” in 2000 in a stage adaptation of the 1967 film, The  Graduate.

Nicole Kidman hasn’t looked back since Charles Spencer, then The Daily Telegraph’s theatre critic, memorably described her performance in The Blue Room at the Donmar in 2002 as “theatrical Viagra”.

The last we saw Malkovich in this country was when he played Poirot last year in BBC TV’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders. Many viewers, who were convinced that the Belgian detective with “the little grey cells” looked like David Suchet, found the transformation a little too radical.

Malkovich’s appearance in Bitter Wheat ensures this is currently just about the hottest ticket in town. His performance can only be described as a tour de force. The play is worth seeing simply to catch Malkovich’s remarkable acting. He is on stage in every scene throughout the two-hour play. I have a special reason for finding the tale is familiar.

No, I don’t know any actress who was assaulted by Weinstein to the best of my knowledge.
But over many years I was aware of his presence at the Cannes Film Festival. I never went to one of his parties, but British journalists always made a beeline for Weinstein because he was invariably good copy. I saw him at press conferences, to be sure.

What I did witness was Weinstein being discourteous to Srichand (SP) Hinduja at a party hosted in 2000 by Ismail Merchant for his film, The Golden Bowl. When SP went up to Weinstein and introduced himself, the Hollywood mogul, sitting in a chair, dismissed him without even bothering to turn around to face the caller. The author Arundhati
Roy, who was on the main Cannes jury that year, was also at the party but wisely appeared to stay away from Weinstein.

I had some of this background in mind when I saw Malkovich do his Weinstein turn in Bitter
Wheat. In the end Weinstein was caught out by the #MeToo movement but what is surprising is that it took so long for him to be rumbled.

The plot line of Bitter Wheat is not a subject matter for humour, but in the second half it does become outrageous to the point of being funny when Fein explains to a “Cambridge educated” Korean-British actress – Ioanna Kimbook plays Yung Kim Li – that it would be good for her to be seduced. It is almost worth seeing Bitter Wheat for this section.

Bitter Wheat is at the Garrick Theatre