The director who brought you such classics as 'Dazed and Confused', 'Waking Life', and the 'Sunrise'/'Sunset' duo is back in theatres again with yet another film of an unpredictable topic. This time, Richard Linklater brings us a film about theatre and the late, great Orson Welles. 'Me and Orson Welles' focuses on a teenager (Zac Efron) fascinated with the world of art in all its forms, from music to theatre, who will stop at nothing to get a role onstage.

Linklater once again approaches an aspect of life familiar to him, within his range of interests and desires. He takes a slice of life – in this case a post-Depression theatre troupe – and breathes new meaning and zest into it. While some directors balk at the whole play-within-a-play theme, Linklater dives in head-first. Moviefone Canada spoke to the famed director about his famous wide-eyed protagonist, why he chose Orson Welles, and why he'll never make a vampire film.

The director who brought you such classics as 'Dazed and Confused', 'Waking Life', and the 'Sunrise'/'Sunset' duo is back in theatres again with yet another film of an unpredictable topic. This time, Richard Linklater brings us a film about theatre and the late, great Orson Welles. 'Me and Orson Welles' focuses on a teenager (Zac Efron) fascinated with the world of art in all its forms, from music to theatre, who will stop at nothing to get a role onstage.

Linklater once again approaches an aspect of life familiar to him, within his range of interests and desires. He takes a slice of life – in this case a post-Depression theatre troupe – and breathes new meaning and zest into it. While some directors balk at the whole play-within-a-play theme, Linklater dives in head-first. Moviefone Canada spoke to the famed director about his famous wide-eyed protagonist, why he chose Orson Welles, and why he'll never make a vampire film.

What was your inspiration for the movie?

For me, it was the novel the movie is based on. I never would have thought I could make a movie that touched on Welles' life at all. It's kind of a daunting task for any filmmaker. The book was such a wonderful little historic fiction about this moment in his life. It encapsulates a lot of the myth of Welles...actually, who's to say what's fact or fiction when it comes to him? Taking the ambulance to the theatre, the radio shows, all that. Who knows?

So it was daunting to approach a character like Welles?


Oh, certainly. He's sort of the patron saint of film directors, so yeah, and he's such a huge personality. You have to get it just right. I thought by depicting one week in his life from a fairly obscure moment was the best approach. Within the Orson character you can see all his future greatness, and maybe some things that are going to trip him up.

In your movies, you have a lot of wide-eyed male protagonists. Do you like using that sort of character to communicate the plot?

I never really think about it that way, but I think that's myself. I go through the world wide-eyed, taking it all in. It's a good way, it works in film. There's something very youthful about it; the movie's about art, youthful ambition, and putting on a show. It's got this great spirit of youth. It's not even only the male protagonists – the young women in this movie, they're pretty wide-eyed.

I've read that you re-created The Mercury Theatre exactly?


We did it as exactly as we could. We had the exact stage drawings, the exact score, the exact text. We have one photo from inside the Mercury, and luckily we had a theatre that had very similar dimensions. There are very few people still alive that were there. I mean, this is an agreed-upon fiction where we all do our best. It was 72 years in the past.

Did you seek to cast Zac Efron in the lead role, or how did that come about?

Yes, certainly. He was the first guy I met for that part, and he liked the script. I had really only seen Zac in 'Hairspray'. When I met him, I thought, 'It's over. He's the guy.' He's got a rare skill set for an actor his age. He's a natural song-and-dance man, and he's really smart. He had to stand up to Orson Welles and not get blown off the stage or the screen. He was kind of perfect.

Even his little song, his little ditty in the movie was great
.

Yeah! He does nail it. It is something you might remember. The limited singing and dancing he does here, he does it well.

Where and how did you find Christian McKay [who plays Orson Welles]?

The film gods handed him to us for this production. Just at the moment I was pondering who on Earth could possibly be Orson Welles, there he was. I saw him on a little stage in New York. He's British, from Manchester, and was in the Royal Shakespeare Company. I remember theorizing: 'You know who our Welles is going to be? He's probably in London right now performing Shakespeare,' and about a month later, I received an email from someone who recommended him. We hit it off, and that was it.

What do you have planned for future projects?


I wish I knew for sure. I have nothing specifically set. There are three or four in the works – for every one film you get made, there are some you won't get made. I have a college comedy, I have a true crime story, I even have one set in the Middle Ages. I'm all over the map!

What about that proposed 'Dazed and Confused' sequel?

That's one of them, but it's not really a sequel. It's sort of a spiritual thing. It's mostly based on my experience, the first week of college in the 80s. You kinda just go party and run around before you get to class. We'll see if I ever get that made. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn't cater to you, or to me, or to anything our age group is interested in.

So all you need to do is make a vampire film!

I don't understand it. It's hard to do something you don't believe in. It cuts me out of a lot of horror films, because I don't believe in ghosts and supernatural things. I can't really honestly take a shot at a lot of these, since I can't put my heart and soul into it. I can't sink my fangs into it. [Laughs]

Linklater's latest, 'Me and Orson Welles,' opens in theatres across Canada on December 11.
CATEGORIES Interviews