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Swimming with Sharks: Step inside the cutthroat world of Hollywood’s corporate food chain in this new production at the Drama Centre Theatre, Singapore

 

Swimming With Sharks is a cult comedy-drama film about the cutthroat world of Hollywood’s corporate food chain. Released in 1994, it starred Kevin Spacey as Buddy Ackerman, an abusive, megalomaniacal movie producer and boss from hell.

In its new stage version of the film (“a tale of greed, sex, deception, revenge and wind-up toys”), Pangdemonium’s artistic director Adrian Pang steps into Spacey’s shoes. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the theatre…

Is the play different to the film?

It’s an expanded and, I daresay, much improved form of the movie version. Playwright Michael Lesslie has taken George Huang’s screenplay and teased even more suspense and hilarity out of it. The essence of the characters and the storyline from the movie are intact, but it’s sexier and more sinister, the dialogue more wickedly witty, and the story packed with more twists, turns and thrills. My advice? Whether you know the movie or not, come with an open mind and you’ll be in for a real treat.

Is there anything of Singapore in the script or is this pure Hollywood?

Many people in our audiences will identify with or recognise the characters in the play. The story of Swimming With Sharks is set in the faux-fantasy world of Hollywood, but it will feel very real to anyone who lives in the real world of office politics and has to deal with horrible bosses or colleagues on a daily basis.

Do you think there are bosses like Buddy Ackerman in Singapore?

Hell yeah! I’ve worked with a few of them. I once worked with a TV director who used to throw scripts, shoes, cigarettes at his assistants. He seemed not able to function on set unless he behaved like a total a***hole. In our research we have spoken to many individuals working in varied businesses who testify to having bosses who are just as sadistic and tyrannical as Buddy Ackerman. In fact, the rumour is that Buddy is based on certain true-life Hollywood producers. The Boss From Hell is very real indeed.

We’ve seen a video teaser showing George Young (who plays set-upon employee Frank Whaley) getting doused in coffee. Does anything else get thrown on set?

Coffee is only used as a weapon when the boss is having a good day. When he’s having a bad day, run for your life. If you’re sitting in the front row of the audience, here’s some advice: duck.

Swimming With Sharks features some fairly odious characters. You lot at Pangdemonium are all lovely in real life, right?

We here at Pangdemonium are pussycats. With. Very. Sharp. Claws.
 

Swimming With Sharks trivia

George Huang who wrote and directed the film also shot Elijah Wood’s audition tape that landed him the role of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
One of the taglines from the film was: “He’s been humiliated, kicked and spat on… and it’s only 10.00 am.”
Michael Lesslie’s stage adaptation of the film premiered in London in 2007, starring Christian Slater and Matt Smith (best known for playing the eleventh incarnation of Doctor Who).
A popular quote from the film: “You look happy. I hate that!”

Swimming With Sharks plays at the Drama Centre Theatre in the National Library Building from 20 September to 7 October. Tickets from Sistic. Special offer: Expat Living readers can enjoy a 15-percent discount by quoting the password, “Living Sharks”.

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