Zac Efron is best known for his singing and dancing role in the “High School Musical” series but it seems that Zac is growing up and doing working his serious acting muscles in the new period piece, “Me and Orson Welles.” The film is based on the book by the same title and co-stars Claire Danes and Christian McKay. The story is set in 1937 and is about a teenager, Richard Samuels, who stars in an Orson Welles production of Julius Caesar and helps in the founding of Welles’ Mercury Theatre. Once he begins working, the Samuels falls in love with an ambitious production assistant.
Zac Efron said that the reason he accepted this role was because “It’s a completely different project than I’ve ever done before.”
The movie was shot on location in Isle of Mann, Pinewood Studios, New York and London for a little over three months. The director chose the closest replica to substitute for the real Mercury Theatre in England where many of the actors were from the Royal Shakespeare Company. The crew shot various locations in New York and the director had each street built in Pinewood Studios with a greenscreen placed at the end so that the New York footage they shot could be dropped into the background giving the illusion of 1937 New York City. The production design team changed the street by dressing it differently and the cinematographer would use different angles to get use the set for various different street locations without rebuilding entire sets.
Some of the film was screened at Cannes in 2008 to seek a distribution deal for the film; however, it failed to find a buyer there despite the appeal of the young star and Linklater’s impressive directing resume. Ultimately, CinemaNX picked up the film for distribution in partnership with Vue Entertainment which will share packaging and advertising costs. In September, 2009, the director will be given the Maverick Award at the Woodstock Film Festival.The reviews for “Me and Orson Welles” have been mostly positive and Roger Ebert called it “one of the best movies about the theater that I’ve ever seen”. Despite the positive reviews, Zac Efron was criticized for his performance by Todd McCarthy of Variety magazine who stated “Efron never feels like a proper fit for Richard”. Audiences will have to decide