An early look at Al Pacino's 'Wilde Salome,' with Jessica Chastain
In 2006, Al Pacino performed in Oscar Wilde's "Salomé" at the Wadsworth Theatre in L.A. During rehearsals, a camera crew followed the cast around the theater, recording everything it could for a documentary that Pacino was working on about Wilde and his infamous stage drama. Five years later, Pacino's documentary is finally seeing the light of day.
"Wilde Salomé" is a highly personal documentary about Pacino's obsession with the British wit and playwright. The documentary will receive its debut at the Venice Film Festival, which begins this week. Judging from the trailer above, "Wilde Salomé" appears to be cut from the same obsessive-compulsive cloth as Pacino's 1996 documentary "Looking for Richard," in which he dissected Shakespeare's "Richard III."
Pacino performed a "staged reading" of "Salome" on Broadway in 2003. The production, directed by Estelle Parsons, featured actors in modern-day dress and reading from scripts. The L.A. version in 2006 featured a different cast, with Pacino reprising the role of Herod and a then-unknown Jessica Chastain playing the title role of the vengeful temptress.
Times theater critic Charles McNulty wasn't a fan of the production: "Not only is Pacino offering a wacky over-the-top portrayal of an aged, wine-bloated ruler desperate to peer down his nubile stepdaughter's chemise, but it's not clear what he and Parsons are artistically trying to achieve."
Of Chastain's performance, the critic wrote that she "turns Salome into a kind of New Testament contestant for 'America's Next Top Model.'"
"Wilde Salomé" doesn't have a release date yet. The documentary is Pacino's third theater-themed movie. After "Looking for Richard," the actor turned his camera on Ira Lewis' play "Chinese Coffee." The film was never released theatrically in the U.S. but is now available on DVD.
Here's a photo of Pacino and Chastain in the 2006 production of "Salome" in L.A ...
-- David Ng
Photo: Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain in the 2006 staging of "Salome" at the Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times