Christian McKay

Christian McKay Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: November 11, 1973

Age: 50 years old

Birth Place: Bury, England, UK

Christian McKay rose from relative obscurity to international acclaim after his riveting portrayal of Orson Welles in the 2009 film "Me and Orson Welles." A splitting image of the legendary filmmaker, McKay had previously staged a one-man show based on Welles' life before winning the career-making role in the Richard Linklater-directed film. His layered performance won over critics and audiences alike, not only for the uncanny physical similarity, but also for capturing the dichotomy of the man inside the genius. As Welles, the British newcomer was charismatic, confident and displayed the sophistication of a seasoned actor.

It may have taken just one film to accomplish it, but by 2010, when McKay starred in the comedy drama "Mr. Nice," he had already earned his place amongst the fastest rising stars of the decade.

Christian McKay (pronounced "Muh-KYE") was born in Bury, Lancashire, England in 1973, the son of a railway worker and hairdresser. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2001 and studied music at the University of York, the Royal College of Music, and Queensland Conservatorium. McKay, a classically trained pianist, was first told he looked like "Citizen Kane" (1941) director Orson Welles while attending RADA. The future star struggled with the comparisons at first - the image of the overweight filmmaker during his later years as a point of reference - yet he was aware of Welles' work and eventually accepted the remarks as compliments. It gradually turned into an obsessive need to learn every minute detail about Welles' life. McKay studied his mannerisms, read several biographies and critical reviews of his works, and brought it to the stage with "Rosebud: The Lives of Orson Welles" (2007), a one-man show where he portrayed the controversial filmmaker at various points in his enigmatic career - from his start as a New York showman to his panic-inducing "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast in 1938 to suffering a career downfall after "Citizen Kane."

McKay was so convincing that at the end of one performance, an elderly lady went up to him and began sobbing because he reminded her so much of the late filmmaker. He soon discovered she was one of Welles' former girlfriends.

McKay made his first onscreen appearance on a 2004 episode of the long-running BBC drama "Doctors" (2000- ). He made his feature film debut in the thriller "Abraham's Point" (2008), about a young man in London who has stolen a grandfather clock in order to bring it back to his dying father in Wales. Both roles established McKay as a fast-rising star in England but it was his one-man show that caught the attention of director Linklater, who was casting for a feature film based on Robert Kaplow's 2005 novel, Me and Orson Welles.

Two big Hollywood names were brought to star in the film adaptation - Zac Efron, who became a teen icon after starring in the mega-successful "High School Musical" (2006) trilogy, and seasoned film and television actress, Claire Danes. However, the film still needed an actor to portray the young and debonair Welles at a turning point in his career. It was later reported that Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the role.

Linklater met McKay after watching an off-Broadway performance of "Rosebud: The Lives of Orson Welles." Stunned by the uncanny physical resemblance and McKay's onstage embodiment of the filmmaker - from his commanding baritone to his idealistic swagger - Linklater knew he had found his Orson Welles.

Set in 1937, "Me and Orson Welles" followed a naïve young actor (Efron) who convinces Welles to cast him in a Mercury Theater production of "Julius Caesar." Danes played the career-driven production assistant whom Efron's character falls for. While both actors gave decent performances in the period drama, McKay captivated as Welles, the dapper, cigar-smoking ladies' man and visionary artist, who was set on taking the theater world by storm with his first Shakespearean production. The actor embodied Welles' larger-than-life personality, leading man charm, and fiery drive, turning in one of the most talked about and critically acclaimed acting performances of 2009.

He received a Best Supporting Male nomination at the 25th annual Independent Spirit Awards for the role. Roger Ebert also described "Me and Orson Welles" as one of the best movies about theater he had ever seen. For his next feature, McKay segued from the world of New York theatre to London's seedy underground drug scene for "Mr. Nice" (2010), starring opposite Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis and Chloe Sevigny.

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