Previewed 5 October 2007, Opened 16 October 2007, Closed 19 January 2008 at the Vaudeville Theatre in London
The world premiere of the stage adaptation of George Huang's 1994 film Swimming with Sharks in London starring Christian Slater, Helen Baxendale and Matt Smith.
In Swimming with Sharks we meet Buddy Ackerman, an incendiary, irresistible movie producer - the mastermind of a top studio's high-grossing, ultra violent horror slate, one of Hollywood's most powerful men - he's also the boss from hell. His eager and idealistic new assistant and would-be screenwriter, Guy, soon finds himself serving as Buddy's personal slave. Guy doggedly endures Buddy's tantrums and relentless abuse in the hope that he will be given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move up the Hollywood ladder. But the dream career seems a long way off when you're working for Buddy 24/7, doing everything from getting him coffee to getting him laid. When such an opportunity arises, Guy attempts to play the Hollywood system and preserve his integrity by drawing his high-powered producer girlfriend into a key deal with Buddy. Soon, however, he loses himself in Buddy's amoral world, irrevocably shattering his idealism and leading to a bitterly funny confrontation between mentor, protégé and lover that have devastating consequences for them all.
The features Christian Slater as 'Buddy Ackerman' with Helen Baxendale as 'Dawn Lockard' and Matt Smith as 'Guy', along with Elizabeth Croft as 'Mitzy', Arthur Darvill as 'Rex', Mark Edel-Hunt as 'Jack', Jonathan Newth as 'Cyrus' and Fanos Xenofos as 'Daniel Faruk'. Directed by Wilson Milam with designs by Dick Bird, lighting by Paul Anderson, music by Stephen Warbeck and sound by Matt McKenzie.
George Huang's cult film is adapted for the stage by Michael Lesslie, who recently won the Cameron Mackintosh Award for new writing for Face Up, Face Down.
Christian Slater's previous West End stage credit include playing 'Randle P. McMurphy' in Dale Wasserman adaptation of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (Gielgud Theatre 2004 and Garrick Theatre 2006).
"Few evenings deliver such an exhilarating adrenalin rush as this unforgiving look at the Machiavellian machinations of Hollywood... Adapted from the 1994 cult film starring Kevin Spacey, and fittingly penned by one-time Tinseltown exec George Huang, the play perfectly suits the intimacy of the stage - especially as the tension escalates to its nail-biting conclusion. Big budget horror flick producer Buddy Ackerman has just taken on the idealistic Guy as his assistant. It soon emerges Buddy is the boss from hell. Hollywood star Christian Slater plays the tyrannical Buddy with supreme relish, glorying in his irrational expletive-ridden tantrums... Slater invests him with such energy that he's irresistible to watch - especially when the tables are eventually turned on him. Matt Smith plays the dogsbody Guy who is sucked into Buddy's amoral world, but his attempts to play the Hollywood game backfire on both him and his girlfriend, played by Cold Feet's Helen Baxendale. The snappy dialogue is infectious and there's even the sense that we're being fed the ultimate Hollywood winning formula. Buddy complains of one script that "there's no romance, no twist - where's the ending?" But the play fulfils all of this criteria. That might make us as manipulated as one of Buddy's slasher film audiences - but what does it matter when it's such an intoxicating ride?" The Daily Express
"Celebrated screen actor Christian Slater has already proved he can play bad boys in the theatre (One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest), so why on earth is he bothering with Swimming With Sharks, the latest in a rash of theatrical makeovers of movies and one which feels not just second-hand, but third-rate?... Author Michael Lesslie throws in the odd amusing gag but his writing is effortful, wannabe David Mamet without the requisite snap, crackle and pop, and it's nothing like sharp enough. Indeed, the characters are such crude cartoons that when the preposterous plot finally begins to resemble one of Buddy's sadistic and sensationalist movies, we ought to be shocked, but I have to confess that I care more when the cartoon character Top Cat gets squashed. Slater barks and bites with irrepressible energy but always on the same naughty note. He can do it standing on his head. Helen Baxendale struggles with an underwritten part as Dawn, the producer with integrity who is trying to make films that teach people something rather than give them what they think they want... Slater should be cutting his teeth on real Mamet." The Mail on Sunday
"Swimming with Sharks was a 1994 film starring Kevin Spacey as Buddy Ackerman, a Hollywood big shot about as trustworthy as the average episode of Blue Peter. Now it is brought to the West End, with Christian Slater in the lead, who turns out to be the best thing in it. A clumsy satire on the movie business that has you wondering what it is doing on a stage at all, it is still popcorn-level entertaining... It is a crude, formulaic but enjoyable comedy, teaching that Hollywood movies are team efforts in which the team all hate each other, and there is no opposition." The Sunday Times
Swimming with Sharks in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 5 October 2007, opened on 16 October 2007, closed on 19 January 2008.