Mendes will direct Stephen Dillane in both the title role in Hamlet and the role of Prospero in The Tempest, in 2008. Simon Russell Beale will play Leontes in The Winter's Tale and Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard, both directed by Mendes in 2009. In 2010, Mendes will direct another pair to be announced.
Each year, the pair of plays will go up in repertory at the Old Vic, BAM and at least one other international theatre. In 2008, Hamlet and The Tempest will run January to March at BAM, at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan in April and at the Old Vic in London from May to June.
Mendes said in a statement, "Hamlet and The Tempest, although written 13 years apart, are plays in which Shakespeare deals with a similar obsession: in both, the central character is bent on revenge. But they are also plays which explore the complex relationship between parents and children, masters and subjects."
The Bridge Project recalls Mendes' recent productions of Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night which starred Beale and Emily Watson and went up in rep at BAM and the Donmar Warehouse, where Mendes served as artistic director for ten years. The pair won the Olivier Award for Best Revival, and Uncle Vanya won Best Director for Mendes, Best Actor for Beale and Obie Awards for Beale and the designer Anthony Ward.
The lineup also recalls the Donmar's production of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, which went to the West End and won a Tony for Dillane when it transferred to Broadway in 2000. Mendes and Caro Newling — Mendes' long-term producing partner with whom Mendes founded Neal Street Productions in 2003, after his Donmar tenure — will serve as creative producers on The Bridge Project. The other driving forces behind the project are Spacey and Joseph V. Melillo, BAM's executive producer since 1999. The Old Vic and BAM's Harvey Theater are physically comparable.
"It has been my hope since I became artistic director of the Old Vic that the work we do in London should have an international life," said Spacey in a statement. Spacey currently stars in the Broadway transfer of the Old Vic's production of A Moon for the Misbegotten. Edward Hall's productions of The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night went up in rep at the Old Vic, and then BAM, where they ended April 1 before their UK tour.
In addition to his numerous productions at the Donmar, Mendes has directed Broadway productions of Gypsy, The Vertical Hour, The Blue Room and Cabaret. His other films include "The Road to Perdition" and "Jarhead."
On Broadway, Beale starred in Jumpers and replaced Tim Curry in the role of King Arthur in Spamalot. His many British stage credits include The Philanthropist, Humble Boy, The Life of Galileo, Othello, Candide, Volpone and Hamlet.
Dillane's numerous other UK credits include Hurlyburly at the Old Vic and Endgame at the Donmar, plus The Coast of Utopia, Dancing at Lughnasa, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Hamlet and Angels in America.