Last seen on the Main Stem in a 2015 revival of Harold Pinter’s Old Times, Owen will play Rene Gallimard in David Henry Hwang’s twisty, East vs. West spin on the true tale of a French diplomat’s 20-year affair with a star of the Chinese Opera who turns out to be both male and a spy, a role originated by John Lithgow. Producers Nelle Nugent, Steve Traxler, Kenneth Teaton, Benjamin Feldman, and Sony Music CEO Doug Morris said Monday morning that the production will open on October 26; they haven’t booked a theater yet.
Hwang plans to introduce new material hat has come to light since 1988 about the love affair between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Chinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu. In addition to best play, M. Butterfly won Tony Awards for supporting actor B.D. Wong, who played the opera star, and director John Dexter. Lithgow was nominated, along with set and costume designer Eiko Ishioka and lighting designer Andy Phillips.
“I really only knew what was in that one-column New York Times article back when I wrote the play,” Hwang told Deadline. “Since then, I’ve learned that a few things I thought I’d invented turned out to be true, e.g. Boursicot really did try to kill himself in prison. And aspects of their story are richer and more complicated than I knew back then.”
Hwang credited Taymor with urging him “to look at the wealth of new information about the real affair between Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu that has surfaced since the show’s premiere… I’m thrilled with this opportunity to revisit these characters — their motivations and their personal and political deceptions – to more fully explore this extraordinary love affair.”
Added Owen: “I could not be more excited to take on such a complex and fascinating role for my return to Broadway. M. Butterfly offers a novel challenge with its inherent mystery and astonishing storyline. I’m looking forward to diving into the mind of Rene Gallimard and I can think of no one better than the brilliant Julie Taymor to bring this wonderful, daring, original play to life.”
“M. Butterfly is like a Chinese puzzle, with layer upon layer of meaning; the more deeply you explore it, the more its essence is revealed,” said Taymor. “The fact that David was excited to revisit his characters and further develop their stories proves what a brave and inquisitive writer he is. Collaborating with him on the text of this fascinating story has been a joy, and this version is proving to be a true metamorphosis. And to have this complex character brought to life by Clive Owen, an actor I’ve wanted to work with for many years, is an extraordinary opportunity. We’re very excited to get into the rehearsal room and share this production with audiences.”
Additional casting and design team will be announced at a later date. Owen is appearing with the support of Actors’ Equity Association.