New Leads Join Jerry Hall in The GraduateDate: 3 July 2000
The other leads of Terry Johnson's hit play The Graduate, at the Gielgud Theatre, will also change at the same time as Jerry Hall takes over from Kathleen Turner in the role of Mrs Robinson. The current cast finishes their contracts on Saturday 29 July and the new one takes over Monday 31 July, with a new opening night on Tuesday 8 August.
Josh Cohen replaces Matthew Rhys as Benjamin, and Lucy Punch replaces Kelly Reilly as Elaine Robinson, parts played, respectively, by Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross in the famous 1967 film version of the story about a young man who has an affair with an older woman and then falls in love with her daughter. Cohen was in the original London cast of the Broadway musical Rent. Punch has worked mainly on television in series such as The New Adventures of Robin Hood, Days Like These, Big Bad World, The Tenth Kingdom and Let Them Eat Cake. She also appeared in the 1999 Channel 4 film Cinderella with Kathleen Turner.
The announcement last month that Hall would take over from Turner caused some controversy with many theatre pundits, including Donmar Warehouse artistic director Sam Mendes, calling for an end to the West End's obsessive casting cult of the celebrity. Hall, best known as an ex-model and ex-wife of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, is not regarded as a serious actress. Although she has appeared in films including Batman, Freejack and Princess Caraboo, she has only appeared once on stage, in the poorly received 1998 Palace Theatre Watford production of Bus Stop, which transferred briefly to the West End's Lyric Theatre.
Like Turner, Hall has agreed to bare all in the infamous seduction scene. And, acting credits or not, the chance to catch the 43-year-old in the nude has already generated a flood of new bookings at the theatre box office and a sell-out seems guaranteed. Commenting on the decision, Hall said, 'I wouldn't have even thought about it if I didn't think I looked good.' To ensure that she does, however, the star is reportedly working out with an Olympic trainer in the run up to her opening.
Prior to the casting of Hall, speculation over who would be the next Mrs Robinson had reached fever pitch, with a string of over-40 Hollywood film stars allegedly queuing up to strip off for the part. Front-runners mentioned in connection with the production included Cybill Shepherd, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Sharon Stone. Forty-five-year-old Turner, who has repeatedly criticised Hollywood for the sparseness of its roles for older women, caused a sensation when she first announced her West End debut and then disrobed in the part.
The part of Mrs Robinson was first made famous by Anne Bancroft in Mike Nichols' 1967 Oscar-winning film. The stage play is written by Terry Johnson, adapted from the original novel by Charles Webb and the motion picture screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Johnson also directs, with design by Rob Howell, lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Mike Walker. The show is produced by John Reid and Sacha Brooks.
The Graduate opened at the Gielgud on 5 April, following previews from 24 March 2000, and has been sold out for every performance with daily queues for returns. The play has broken all box office records at the Gielgud, having taken £3 million to date with a box office advance in excess of £1 million. It is expected to extend until at least the end of the year.