House of cards

Perhaps the most exciting thing to occur for me in 2013 was the launch of my new series, “House of Cards,” on Netflix. Co-starring Robin Wright, written by Beau Willimon and directed by David Fincher, the series was greeted with enormous affection and quickly became a fan favorite. I was particularly pleased that our version went down well in Great Britain, where the original BBC series had become a beloved program a few years prior. The London premiere was held at the Leicester Cinema with a big party afterwards. The night was generously made as a fund-raiser for my place of employment in London – The Old Vic Theatre.

The series has shifted the paradigm of television programming, as we became the first series in the history of television to release an entire season on the first day. In addition, we became the most watched program in the history of Netflix – in all 40 countries where it is available!

From April till November, the bulk of my year was spent shooting the Second Season of the series, another 13 episodes, all shot in Baltimore and Washington D.C., under different directors and with some wonderful new cast members. Jodie Foster and Robin Wright each directed episodes, and I brought on John Coles to direct several episodes. Coles had previously directed me in my role as Clarence Darrow in a PBS television film, DARROW, in 1991.

Filming “House of Cards” took 115 days, but on all off days I was still working on other projects and fulfilling obligations in other spheres in both my professional and personal life. My work at the Old Vic Theatre has continued at a steady pace, and we had some wonderful productions on our main stage including “The Winslow Boy,” which transferred successfully to Broadway at the Roundabout Theater, a brilliant production of “Noises Off,” which toured across Great Britain and Ireland, Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler,” that went down very well, and Mark Rylance’s staging of “Much Ado About Nothing,” starring two of the greatest stars of both stage and screen – Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones.

I am a huge admirer of both legends, Redgrave and Jones, so it was a thrill to have them tread the boards of the Old Vic. It was particularly moving to have Redgrave involved in the production, as her birth had been announced from the Old Vic stage by Laurence Olivier himself! Following a performance of “Hamlet” in 1937, Olivier halted the audience from applauding at the curtain call to announce that the actor playing Polonius, Michael Redgrave, had just had a daughter. A great actress, Olivier proclaimed, named Vanessa! What is quite remarkable is that other than at the memorial for her father, Redgrave had never acted on the Old Vic stage until our production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

I am very gratified at the positive reception most of the productions at the Old Vic have received, given that I have had to program the theater from the road. From September 2011 to March 2012 I was touring the world with “Richard III,” then filming Season One of “House of Cards” from April till November of 2012, and filming Season Two this year. It has certainly been a challenge, but we’ve managed to make it work. My staff at the Old Vic has been quietly saying: “It’s working, so stay away.” However, I must say that being away from my adopted home and my family at the Old Vic has been difficult. They are all so great at what they do that their advice works! I am truly impressed by their love and dedication to the iconic old building and it is this that allows me be comfortable about being away for such long periods of time. I am truly blessed to have such remarkable people in my life.

This year also saw trips to Moscow and Johannesburg for the second year of Jameson First Shot, our contest for emerging short filmmakers organized by Trigger Street Productions. I starred in the winning projects the first year of the competition, and this year Willem Dafoe starred in three short films. Uma Thurman is scheduled to star in the films of the winners of 2014.

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