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Film / Me and Orson Welles

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Me and Orson Welles is a 2009 American film directed by Richard Linklater about the life of a high school student, Richard, who gets a part in Orson Welles' production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre. While working on the production, he falls in love with Sonja Jones, the production assistant. Drama ensues. It is based on a novel with the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • The '30s: The movie is set in the late 1930s.
  • Ain't No Rule: Invoked by Welles, who hires ambulances to take him from radio show to radio show and back to the theatre, claiming if there is a law saying you have to be sick to ride in an ambulance, he hasn't heard of it.
  • Berserk Button: Never criticize Orson Welles. Also, never bring up his pregnant wife after he just spent the night with the production assistant.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Yes, Richard is fired from the play after opening night, and he has probably lost the best chance at being a thriving theatre actor, but he still hooks up with a potential love interest, and is invited as a guest to a grand party.
  • The Casanova: Welles again. He tries to seduce just about every female in the movie. Joe Cotten, too.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Gretta Adler, a playwright whom Richard met in a music store in the beginning of the movie, becomes an Implied Love Interest of his and gets a story published in a newspaper.
  • Dirty Coward: "Orson's not only a son of a bitch...he's a coward." That's what the crew member who told Richard that he's fired from the play about Orson Welles. He might be right on that part.
  • Historical Beauty Upgrade: Based on the photo of Arthur Anderson (the real "Richard") and Orson Welles in real life, Arthur was scrawny and average-looking. In the movie, Richard is portrayed by Zac Efron, who is muscular and good-looking.
  • Historical In-Joke: "How the hell can I top this?" Right, Orson. How could you possibly top that?
  • It Will Never Catch On: Who in the world would think of staging Shakespeare in modern dress?
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Orson can certainly be a Jerkass, but he still cares for his cast and crew.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Orson. Most obvious at the end of the movie, when he convinces Richard to come back for opening night, then fires him anyway.
  • One of the Boys: A female performer after the play mentions this trope, how she feels more comfortable working with men, as she doesn’t feel comfortable working with other women.
  • Rousing Speech: After being fired from the play, Richard makes a speech in class the next day that involves quotes from the Caesar play, which causes his impressed classmates applaud him.
  • Setting Update: Welles's production of Julius Caesar had the setting updated to what was then modern-day facist Italy, drawing blatant parallels to Mussolini.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Both employed (when the image fades to black ofter Sonja invites Richard into the bedroom) and, in its literary form, discussed:
    Joseph Cotten: Welcome to "quadruple space", kid.
    Richard: What's "quadruple space"?
    Joseph Cotten: You know, in a novel, when the main characters are finally about to schtup. They can't describe it, otherwise they can't print the book. They just go, you know, "he hugged her hard, they fell on to the bed", Period, Quadruple space.
  • Shout-Out: Joseph Cotten is shown hiding in a darkened doorway while Richard talks with Sonja.
  • Sidelong Glance Biopic: It’s a film about Orson Welles in the view of a normal protagonist. Need more?
  • Stunned Silence: Richard has this when Sonja breaks up with him. Lampshaded by her.
    Sonja: Richard, we've only been dating for a couple weeks. Is this silence really necessary?
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: Because Richard used a lit lighter to inspect a ceiling right next to a sprinkler, it causes it to go off, igniting the other sprinklers in the theater. This leaves Welles furious and rehearsal that day to be canceled to have the theater dry out.
  • This Cannot Be!: Richard has this reaction when he has been told that he is fired from the play. And this is while he is celebrating his performance on the successful opening night.
  • Throw It In!: An in-universe example. Orson Welles is shown improvising a line paraphrased from The Magnificent Ambersons while recording a part for a radio soap opera. Based on the reaction from the director and the rest of the cast, this could even be called Orson Does Something Brilliant.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: While Orson Welles's famous production of Julius Caesar was real, the teenage actor who played Lucius was named Arthur Anderson, not Richard Samuels, and while the film draws inspiration from his memoirs, most of the plot is fiction. (The incident of Arthur/Richard setting off the sprinkler system really did happen, though.) In real life, Arthur Anderson went on to be the original voice of Lucky the Leprechaun in all the Lucky Charms cereal commercials from the 1960s through the early '90s.