Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Bunch of Amateurs (Burt Reynolds as King Lear)

A Bunch of Amateurs. Dir. Andy Cadiff. Perf. Burt Reynolds, Alexandra Weaver, Elesia Marie, Camilla Arfwedson, Michael Wildman, Charles Durning, Pandora Colin, Samantha Bond, Imelda Staunton, Taz, Lorraine Ashbourne, Gemma Lawrence, Peter Gunn, Tony Jayawardena, Alistair Petrie, Derek Jacobi, and Ciaran O'Quigley. 

Burt Reynolds in Hamlet and Hutch (for which, q.v.) was pretty disappointing.

Burt Reynolds in The Twilight Zone (for which, q.v.) was a whole lot better.

And Burt Reynolds in A Bunch of Amateurs (for which . . . well, keep reading) is also quite good.

The plot involves an aging actor (Jefferson Steel, played by Burt Reynolds) whose aging agent can't get him the big action-hero parts anymore. To revitalize his career (or just to get him out of the country), the agent books him to play Shakespeare in Stratford . . . without telling him exactly which Stratford:

I'm very fond of the sequence in the plane. Jefferson Steel goes from the Arden edition of King Lear to the Cliffs Notes . . . to something called "Shakespeare in a Page" printed from the internet. 

I also love the dramatic irony of the interview. The journalists know he's there to play with an amateur troupe of actors, but Steel thinks, when they talk of amateurs, that they're just being modest about the quality of British professional actors.

In the next scene, Steel arrives at the theatre and finds out the truth:

"Where's Kenny Branagh?" is a great line—especially when he's just met Derek Jacobi and Peter Gunn (who played Fabian in the 1996 Trevor Nunn Twelfth Night). It also makes me think of Branagh's A Midwinter's Tale (for which, q.v.), which is a similar tale of saving a theatre or rejuvenating a career with a low-budget Shakespeare production.

Jefferson Steel has been acting very Lear-like throughout the production, but he also goes a bit off his head and ends up out in a storm:

And, finally, we have some of King Lear. I'm avoiding spoilers, so I won't tell you or show you what unexpected things happen during the production. I'll just give you a bit of the show . . . followed by the curtain calls:

All in all, this was quite a good film, filled with good production values, good acting, good names, and a good Burt Reynolds. It's hard to find in anything but a Region 2 DVD, but it's worth it.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Bonus Image: Thoughtful Jefferson Steel

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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