NEW YORK | Kevin Spacey put his body through a lot playing “Richard III” for over 200 shows and across three continents. Tumbling down a massive sand dune in Qatar didn’t help.
The “House of Cards” star found himself uncontrollably flipping over and over down a dune outside Doha during a fun day trip with the rest of the cast of the Shakespeare play.
Thankfully, someone got it all on tape: The Academy Award-winner’s silly plummet is one of the lighter moments in a new feature documentary that captures Spacey and his troupe of 20 British and American actors during their 10-month international tour from 2011-2012.
The film starts with rehearsals at The Old Vic in London and follows the company to nine of the 12 cities on the tour, including stops at the ancient Greek amphitheater in Epidaurus, then on to Beijing, Istanbul, Sydney, Naples, San Francisco and winding up in New York City.
Director Jeremy Whelehan, who was an associate producer of Spacey’s film “Beyond the Sea” and an Old Vic assistant director, says the movie is as much for fans of the stage as it is for newcomers.
“We wanted the film to relate to people who have never been to the theater and may roll their eyes at the thought of seeing a Shakespeare play,” he said.
Whelehan and his team captured the actors exploring their roles, joking and laughing backstage, missing home and being excited by the cities they visit. They are seen walking along the Great Wall of China and visiting Qatar and Turkey during the Arab Spring with a suddenly very relevant story about a power-mad dictator.
“It is a very intimate, behind-the-scenes look. You get to go places that you don’t normally ever get to go with a camera,” said Spacey of the 90-minute film, called “NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage” and which has been started to be shown in select movie theaters nationwide this past week.
The documentary, which will also be available to download in the U.S. for $12.99 and 209 countries starting Friday, grew out of the three-year Bridge Project, a trans-Atlantic partnership that united The Old Vic, The Brooklyn Academy of Music and Sam Mendes’ Neal Street Productions.
The project included “The Winter’s Tale,” ”The Cherry Orchard,” ”The Tempest” and “As You Like It,” all directed by Mendes. In its final act, Spacey played the humpbacked Richard III for Mendes and took the evil king on tour.
Spacey and Mendes batted around ideas about how best to commemorate the company.
“We both felt it was so unique that there had to be some way we could maybe capture it,” says Spacey. They settled on a documentary, but not a self-congratulatory one.
“I really didn’t want to set out to make a kind of inside, lovey, aren’t-we-fabulous thing, but more a real examination for people who just don’t know what the process of doing theater is really like, a chance to peek behind that curtain,” he said.
Whelehan said he and his crew tried to capture the three layers of each of the performers — as characters onstage, as working actors behind the scenes, and also as people. The company members offered full access in exchange for veto rights of anything embarrassing.
“They were so disarming and actually discreet and deferential that we just got used to it after a while,” said Gemma Jones, who played Queen Margaret. “It was fairly honest, so I can’t really complain.”
Nathan Darrow, who played Lord Grey and the Earl of Richmond in the play, was happy the cameras showed that actors are just regular folks. “That people will get a window into the backstage is kind of beautiful and special,” he said.
Mark Kennedy is at https://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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