Simon Callow made his stage debut in 1973, and came to prominence in a critically acclaimed performance as Mozart in the original stage production of Peter Shaffer s Amadeus at the Royal National Theatre in 1979. He is well known for a series of one-man shows that have toured internationally and featured subjects including Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Jesus, and Richard Wagner. Among his many film roles is the much-loved character Gareth in the hit film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Callow simultaneously pursued careers as a director in theater and opera and an author of several books, including Being an Actor, Love Where It Falls, and a biography of Charles Laughton.
In this third volume of his robust biography, Simon Callow states that the bulk of his subject s work was an exercise . . . in gigantism . Everything about Welles his appetites, his energies, his stature was vast, the marks of a man who filled space without needing heels. In tribute, Callow has allowed his writing to expand, resulting in a biography as huge as if it had been fed a Welles-style diet of roasted chicken and foie gras. . . .In every way, Callow has captured his subject as he wants him: not a shadow in a doorway, not an actor behind a prosthetic nose, not a dying big beast, but alive and kicking and, as Dietrich says in Touch of Evil, some kind of a man. Victoria Segal, The Sunday Times (UK) This still unrolling biography is a magnificent achievement. Never does a word seem out of place. Callow illuminates strange byways as well as giving fresh, rounded assessments of the key projects. As you would expect from a stage interpreter of Dickens, he is a master of revealing character and Welles, for all his flaws, was not short of that. Christopher Silvester, Financial Times [One of] the year s most entertaining biography is Orson Welles: One-Man Band. . . . This wonderfully vivid account of Welles s tireless exploits in theatre, radio, film, television and even ballet is compulsive reading. Only an actor, director and writer as gifted and ebullient as Callow could have found the nerve to do this. Callow becomes Welles and, strangely, Welles almost becomes Callow. Robert McCrum, The Observer (Books of the Year 2015) Callow writes with energy and purpose . . . Welles in his middle years is a more engaging prospect than most artists at a similar point, because he always appears much larger than life seems, indeed, more of a fictional character than a real one. He has been lucky to have Callow as a biographer, balancing warmth with scepticism, fondness with reproof. . . . His account of Welles, perhaps inadvertently, illustrates a truth about some actors: they are essentially children, raised on encouragement and endearments, spoon-fed their lines which they perfect in the creche of rehearsal, then perform for the approval of their adult audience. . . . Callow calls him an Infant Prodigy, with a temperament to match: he never learned to play nicely with others. It was Orson s show, or no one s. Anthony Quinn, The Guardian [Callow] is as critically astute about [Welles s] good performances in bad films, even his bad performances in good films, as anyone. But he is doing something else. He is taking the man for all he represents in the culture of Hollywood and Europe, in the theatre of his day, as a pioneer of television arts programmes and chat shows, and as a force of nature, a phenomenon, an incomparable bravura personality (as Kenneth Tynan called him), a walking (just about) compendium of enthusiasms, obsessions, friendships, frustrations and sheer lust for spinning out a ribbon of dreams with, as he said, the best electric train set a boy ever had . And Callow does this by recognising in Welles someone so rare, and so reprehensibly admirable, that his modus operandi guzzling, drinking, travelling from Rome to the South of France by cab for a party, spending money he doesn't have, smoking implausibly long cigars, wheedling, harrumphing, shooting and editing through the night, romancing and revelling is as marvellous as the best of his work; the life, in fact, is the work, and inseparable from it. . . . Callow continuously strikes to the quick and the essential in Welles. Michael Coveney, The Independent (UK) Simon Callow s third volume of his definitive biography, spanning a typically busy period between 1947 and 1966, shows the actor-director-writer-magician-raconteur at his most charming and his most obnoxious. He had so many enemies, it seems, because he made them compulsively. His bullshit threshold was low, unless the bullshit was his own bullshit. Yo Zushi, New Statesman (UK) Riveting and wonderfully wrought . . . An immersive, engaging, and immensely readable portrait of Welles, revealing a complicated man and innovative artist whose own life mirrored the Shakespearian tragedies of which he was so fond. Publishers Weekly (starred review) Praise for Orson Welles, Volume 2: Hello Americans Animated by a brisk intelligence . . . He shapes and interprets his material and with panache places his story in rich context. The Atlantic Monthly Mr. Callow, a divine and witty actor, is also a gifted writer. . . . The sparkling second volume is a rollercoaster. The Wall Street Journal Unfailingly intelligent and well written . . . Callow s portrait is so vivid and three- dimensional. Variety Praise for Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu This riveting, revealing portrait of the legendary director and star is unlikely to be surpassed. Los Angeles Times Book Review A wonderfully readable, sharp, shrewd and evenhanded biography . . . Callow is a witty and feeling biographer. Chicago Tribune Callow is in control all the way. The New York Times Book Review