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NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage


Stars: Kevin Spacey

Director: Jeremy Whelehan

Kevin Spacey has described his stage success as Shakespeare's hunchback king Richard III as "the most demanding experience I've ever had physically and emotionally”.

Much the same goes for my reaction to watching Now: In the Wings on a World Stage).

Nine years after making his film debut as a subway thief in Heartburn, character actor Spacey hit the jackpot with his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Usual Suspects.

Four years later Sam Mendes steered him to the Best Actor Oscar for American Beauty. After several unmemorable movies, Spacey’s unfortunate 2006 portrayal of villainous Lex Luthor in Superman Returns briefly brought the profitable Man of Steel to a shuddering halt.

Spacey swapped the screen for the theatre in 2003 and came to London to become the artistic director of the Old Vic.

Here producer/director Jeremy Whelehan’s documentary lovingly charts - onstage and backstage - Spacey’s ‘celebrated’ turn as Shakespeare’s Richard III in a hagiographic movie that combines ego rampant supported by luvvies rampant, and which announces its message from the start with the title “Kevin Spacey Presents’.

Mendes, now happily blessed with a fine financial future as the director of the 007 franchise, talks to camera interestingly enough but without much to remember after the film finishes. For me his most interesting contribution (I assume he chose the clip) was a sequence from American Beauty where Spacey hams it up almost as much on film as he does here playing to the back of the gallery.

Spacey is seriously smug throughout.

Onstage he goes the full luvvie and way past it in rehearsal and later in performance on a well-received world tour. Other actors, among them Gemma Jones, get to appear and talk about their contributions to the play but, make no mistake, they’re there as supporting characters to Spacey whose false modesty in his offstage to-camera interviews is, frankly, depressing.

This is the Kevin Spacey Show from start to finish. By the end the world tour scenery, including the Great Wall of China, is more interesting than anything else.

On stage, Richard III was bravura demonstration of star barnstorming. On screen it mostly irritates when it doesn’t bore.

The film appears not to have been certificated by the BBFC - 15 is simply my guess.

Alan Frank

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Kevin Spacey. Colour.
97 minutes. not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 13 Jun 2014