The much-anticipated revival of The Elephant Man starring Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) has found a home on Broadway. The play will begin preview performances at the Booth Theater on Oct. 18 in advance of a Nov. 13 opening.
Cooper will be repeating his performance from a 2012 production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. His co-stars, Oscar nominee and Emmy winner Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April, Six Feet Under) and Alessandro Nivola (The Winslow Boy), rejoin him as does the director, Tony nominee Scott Ellis (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Curtains, Twelve Angry Men).
Based on a real-life story, Bernard Pomerance’s play tells of the story of the disfigured Merrick (Cooper) who is rescued from a carnival sideshow by a kindly doctor (Nivola) and introduced into the upper crust of Victorian English society. He forms a friendship with a celebrated actress (Clarkson) who sees the tender soul underneath the distorted exterior. The lead role is an immense challenge since it calls for the actor to suggest Merrick’s twisted, disfigured body using only physicality and with no elaborate make-up or prosthetics.
After a small production in London, the play opened Off-Broadway in 1979 and later moved to Broadway where it won the Tony Award for Best Play and ran for 916 performances. Philip Anglim (as Merrick), Carole Shelley and Kevin Conway starred. Rock star David Bowie and Star Wars’ Mark Hamill were among the actors who took on the difficult lead part. There was a 1980 film of The Elephant Man, but it was not based on Pomerance’s play. John Hurt played Merrick in full heavy make-up and was nominated for an Oscar. Billy Crudup, Kate Burton and Rupert Graves headlined a 2002 Broadway revival.
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