Budd Schulberg, the 95-year-old author of the Oscar-winning 1954 movie classic On the Waterfront, flew in to Edinburgh this past weekend for Saturday’s opening of Steven Berkoff’s new stage adaptation, which runs at the Pleasance Grand until 25 August 2008. Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Schulberg said he was highly “impressed” with Berkoff’s stylised rendition of the story of New Jersey ex-prize fighter Terry Malloy. This version is, said Schulberg, “the best I’ve ever seen on stage”.

The part of Malloy, immortalised on screen by Marlon Brando, was previously mooted for such Hollywood names as Matt Dillon, Mark Ruffalo and Guy Pearce (See The Goss, 5 Sep 2007), but went in the end to the relatively unknown British actor Simon Merrells, whose credits include The Life of Galileo and Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads at the National and London’s Burning on TV.

Schulberg for one has no qualms about foregoing the star casting in favour of Merrells, who he believes is “excellent” as the man who “coulda been a contender”. But can he match up to Marlon? “I wouldn’t compare him with Brando because Brando is incomparable,” said Schulberg. Merrell succeeds because “he’s not trying to imitate Brando”.

Producers Carole Winter and Michael Edwards say the anticipated West End transfer after the Edinburgh Fringe is still very much “on the cards”. They’re currently in discussion with various theatre owners about where and when. Earlier this year, On the Waterfront had an initial tryout at the Nottingham Playhouse, where it ran from 18 April to 3 May (See News, 9 Jan 2008).