John Malkovich to play disgraced movie mogul in new Mamet play

January 29, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Actor John Malkovich will take the starring role in a new play by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet about a disgraced Hollywood studio head, a story he said was written partly in reaction to the scandal engulfing film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Speaking to BBC Radio on Tuesday, Malkovich described “Bitter Wheat”, which opens in London in the summer, as “a black farce about a very badly behaved movie mogul”, who he said was “not particularly” Weinstein. The producer will go on trial in New York in May on charges of sexually assaulting two women.

“It’s a great deal about that business and a great deal about how people in that business, in positions say as studio heads have behaved really for more or less a century now. So many of them were so notoriously badly behaved,” he said.

“The idea…maybe started as reaction to all the news that came out last year, in particular about Harvey Weinstein but actually about many many people, some of whom were also higher ups in various studios. I think David kind of took the idea from there and went with it.”

More than 70 women, mainly young actresses and others working in film, have accused Weinstein, 66, of sexual misconduct, including assault, dating back decades.

Weinstein, who pleaded not guilty after his arrest last May, has denied all the accusations, saying any sexual encounters were consensual.

The scandal helped kick off the #MeToo movement, in which dozens of powerful men in Hollywood and beyond have been accused of sexual misconduct.

“Of course it might upset people who’ve experienced the kind of treatment that the play contains and shows and describes and that we watch but what can I do about that?” Malkovich said.

“I am sure a lot of people will laugh and a lot of people will be upset and a lot of people may not like it. Personally I think it’s a terrific piece of writing.”

Malkovich, most recently seen on screens in Netflix thriller “Bird Box” and on British television as legendary detective Hercule Poirot in “The ABC Murders”, said he met Weinstein when making 1998 drama “Rounders” but “didn’t really have any connection with him”.

In “Bitter Wheat”, the 65-year-old actor will play Barney Fein, described in a press release as “a bloated monster- a studio head, who, like his predecessor, the minotaur, devours the young he has lured to his cave.

“His fall from power to shame is a mythic journey which has been compared to ‘The Odyssey’ by people who claim to have read that book.”

Mamet, known for plays such as “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” and “Glengarry Glen Ross”, has written about sexual misconduct before, namely in “Oleanna” about a female student and her professor.

(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)