John Malkovich is set to star in a new David Mamet play inspired by the behavior of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
"Bitter Wheat" is a comedy about "a depraved Hollywood mogul" called Barney Fein, "a studio head who, like his predecessor, the minotaur, devours the young he has lured into his cave," according to a promotional press release.
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The play, opening in London this summer, "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," the release adds.
Scores of women have accused Weinstein, 66, of serious sexual offenses since The New York Times published its exposé in October 2017 detailing decades of alleged sexual harassment by the producer. Actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd were among the first to come forward, with 13 more women accusing Weinstein of sex crimes in a follow-up story in The New Yorker.
The string of accusations soon spawned the #MeToo movement, after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the term on October 15 and encouraged others to share their experiences of sexual assault and harassment. More than 12 million #MeToo posts were made on Facebook in the following 24 hours and the fallout is still being experienced in Hollywood – most recently with media executive Les Moonves, who left CBS last September following another damning exposé. He is now fighting the network for his $120 million severance pay.
Weinstein, an Academy Award-winning producer, rose to fame in the 1990s as head of the Miramax distribution and production company, but was fired from the firm he later headed, the Weinstein Company, in light of his "misconduct."
Although Weinstein denies any criminal wrongdoing, he did say in October 2017: "The way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it."
He faces trial in New York this spring on charges of raping an unidentified female acquaintance in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. A conviction could put him in prison for life.
Mamet, whose plays include “Glengarry Glen Ross” and another black comedy about Hollywood, “Speed the Plow,” will also direct "Bitter Wheat."
Malkovich told BBC News that the comedy "might upset people who've experienced the kind of treatment that the play contains and shows and describes."
He added, "A lot of people may not like it. But what can I do about that? Personally I think it's a terrific piece of writing."
Malkovich said that despite the subject matter, the play is funny and "a lot of people will laugh. A lot of comedy for me exists at the crossroads between pain and farce. In the end that's what theater is for. A lot of great plays, done well, elicit the question do I laugh or do I cry?"
"Bitter Wheat" will receive its world premiere at London's Garrick Theatre from June 7 to September 14.
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