John Malkovich: 'It’s not a very sane or pretty world'

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: John Malkovich attends a screening of "The ABC Murder" at BFI Southbank on December 13, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
John Malkovich attends a screening of "The ABC Murders" at BFI Southbank on December 13, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

John Malkovich’s career is filled with unsettling characters. So, it’s no surprise really that his next role is in a controversial new work, about a movie producer that bears more than a passing resemblance to Harvey Weinstein.

The play in question is Bitter Wheat by David Mamet and while Malkovich is clear that the play “isn’t specifically about Weinstein”. He does think that “upsetting people is the point of theatre.”

“I don’t trust people telling me what to do. Should I check with them before I read a book or see a movie? Should I follow them around on the end of a leash, sucking my thumb – or am I allowed to do the things that interest me?”

“Anything now can be used against you that you said or supposedly said – it’s Salem. It’s not a very sane or pretty world. People seem to think that this is the only time that ever existed and had validity, and anything good, or just, or true, or kind only ever happened on Twitter. I don’t believe that.”

He opened up about his feelings about the current state of the world and the coming production in an interview with The Telegraph this weekend.

Bitter Wheat he explained is “a dark farce about power and about someone who’s a genius at manipulating the process, restructuring reality and begging for sympathy. But he knows what happened. Anyone who has abused, assaulted or harassed people knows what really happened.”

Read more: John Malkovich in first rehearsal images from Weinstein-inspired play

Malkovich wowed audiences and critics alike with his portrayal of Hercules Poirot’s in the BBC’s The ABC Murders last Christmas.

Read more: First look at John Malkovich as Hercule Poirot for the BBC's new drama

When the news broke about the casting of Bitter Wheat back at the beginning of the year, comments on social media were not positive.

Malkovich was incredulous, but not surprised “I thought: You haven’t read it, what are you talking about? You sound like a fool. Not only have you not read it, you haven’t seen it. It’s a play! Plays are meant to be seen.”

Malkovich hasn’t acted on the British stage in 30 years, but when Mamet asked him to play the part (at a dinner party back in 2017). He first thought “Oh, God…” and then “Sure!”

“I have great respect for David,” he explains. “I have a kindred spirit with anyone who is independent-minded. People who just follow along in their little tribe, I don’t have respect for. Sorry, I don’t.”

Bitter Wheat opens at the Garrick Theatre on Wednesday 19 June.