Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tour Brings 20th-Century Film Legend's Life Story to Tyneside; One of the 20th Century's Giant Personalities Is to Be Brought to Life on Tyneside. Simon Callow Tells DAVID WHETSTONE about Orson Welles

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tour Brings 20th-Century Film Legend's Life Story to Tyneside; One of the 20th Century's Giant Personalities Is to Be Brought to Life on Tyneside. Simon Callow Tells DAVID WHETSTONE about Orson Welles

Article excerpt

SIMON Callow - actor, director, author - is one of those people you might call larger than life. But it seems that, like the rest of us, he is nothing when compared with Orson Welles.

When Callow takes to the stage at Sage Gateshead to talk about a man who was a giant in every respect, it promises to be quite a night - the larger than life talking about the larger than larger than life.

The third part of Callow's fascinating biography of Welles, One-Man Band, has recently been published.

But where many authors might content themselves with some bookshop appearances, this one is taking a show on the road.

It makes sense. Simon Callow is as good a talker as he is a writer, and it's always good to hear someone expressing their passion for a subject.

And besides, he has his fans. You might remember him as ill-fated Gareth in Four Weddings and a Funeral or in a host of other films and TV shows (on stage in Newcastle he was in Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart a few years ago).

He has also written books about Oscar Wilde, Charles Laughton and Charles Dickens.

But Orson Welles, the American actor, director, writer and producer, was something else.

He was only in his mid-twenties when he wrote, produced, directed and starred in Citizen Kane, which is regularly cited as one of the greatest - and often the greatest - films of all time.

And he had already caused a national panic with his 1938 radio version of The War of the Worlds, by his near namesake HG Wells, which he directed and narrated.

These two famous creations, in different media, are what most of us know about. But they are just the tip of a characteristically enormous iceberg (although volcano might be a more apt metaphor in the case of the combustible Welles).

"When I started I had no idea it would expand the way it did," says Callow of the task he embarked upon.

"Initially, I was just fascinated by Welles' work in the theatre in the 1930s in America. That was the book I was going to write.

"Then, the deeper into it I got, the more people kept saying, 'Are you just writing about his theatre work? You should be writing about the man himself - and the man we don't recognise in any of the books we've read so far'." 700,000 words later, Simon Callow still hasn't finished with Orson Welles.

At the start of the latest book there's a funny account by Callow of his first proposition to his hard to impress publisher, that he cover Welles' life in three volumes, the third of which would be a novel.

The reply was gruff - that he would get two volumes if he was very lucky and he could forget about the novel.

Well, his luck has held as the workload has increased. This third volume is to be followed by a fourth.

But this book deals with Orson Welles' years in Europe when he was in need of money to settle tax demands back home in America. Callow paints a picture of a man driven by an inner creative force.

"The thing he wanted to film more than anything else was King Lear and finally he got this money from the French government," says Callow. …

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