John Malkovich to star in David Mamet play inspired by Harvey Weinstein
Bitter Wheat – ‘a black farce about a badly behaved movie mogul’ – to open at the Garrick theatre, London, on 7 June
Tue 29 Jan 2019
John Malkovich is to star in a “farce” inspired by the Harvey Weinsteinscandal and written by David Mamet. The play, Bitter Wheat, will have its world premiere in London this summer.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday, Malkovich described the play as “a black farce about a very badly behaved movie mogul”. The actor said “a lot of people may not like” the play but that he felt it was “a terrific piece of writing”. Asked how comedy could be used to respond to the serious nature of the scandal – which includes allegations of rape, harassment and sexual assault, all of which Weinstein has denied – Malkovich said: “A lot of great plays elicit the question: do I laugh or do I cry? I think a lot of great comedy exists at the crossroads between pain and farce.”
In promotional material, Malkovich’s character, Barney Fein, is described as “a bloated monster – a studio head who, like his predecessor, the minotaur, devours the young he has lured into his cave”. Bitter Wheat is “written and directed by David Mamet in a good mood” and “rips the pashmina off the suppurating wound which is show business, and leaves us better human beings, and fitter to once more confront the horror of life”.
Malkovich, who worked with Weinstein on the film Rounders, said: “They say everyone in Hollywood knew [about Weinstein’s alleged behaviour] … That’s not true. It was never a topic of conversation any time the name Harvey Weinstein came around with me.”
Asked if Barney Fein is supposed to directly represent Weinstein, Malkovich said: “No, it’s not particularly Harvey Weinstein. It’s a great deal about that business and a great deal about about how people in that business in positions, say, as studio heads have behaved really for more or less a century now. If the idea maybe started as a reaction to all the news that came out in particular about Harvey Weinstein, I think David took the idea from there and went with it.”
Bitter Wheat is Mamet’s first new play since China Doll, which opened on Broadway in 2015 and starred Al Pacino. Malkovich will be joined on stage by Doon Mackichan, who will play Fein’s assistant, Sondra, and by Ioanna Kimbook in her debut theatre performance. The rest of the cast for the production, which Mamet will direct himself, has not yet been announced. The play will be at the Garrick theatre, London, from 7 June to 14 September.
Next month, Steven Berkoff will direct himself in Harvey, a one-man show he has written about Weinstein, at the Playground theatre, London.