Interview: Lindsay Posner

He's directing Lohan on stage - and expects to keep his clothes on


American film director Paul Schrader had to take his clothes off to persuade Lindsay Lohan to prepare for a group sex scene in the movie, The Canyons. As there is no such scene in David Mamet's Speed-The-Plow, in which Lohan makes her stage and West End debut, director Lindsay Posner will be spared the indignity. And anyway, all the other Hollywood bad girl stories that have followed Lohan on and off screen are all part of a very different context, Posner insists. "I'm not directing a movie. This is London. So hopefully this will be very different from that sort of world. So far I've been proven right."

Posner does not fit the category of flamboyant director. His face is as round as an owl's, his stubble is closely shaved and there is a gnomic stillness about the man that gives the impression that there is rather more being thought than spoken.

It is early in rehearsals in Posner's revival of Mamet's excoriating comedy about Hollywood. We're sitting in an echoey rehearsal space near King's Cross. When lunch break is over, the play's three actors, Lohan, former West Wing star Richard Schiff and the cast's lone Brit, Nigel Lindsay, will gather with scripts in hand.

"We're just reading at the moment," says Posner. This is a polite way of refusing my somewhat unreasonable request to join them at rehearsal. Posner's point is that there really isn't much to look at. My point is I just want to see if Lohan has turned up. The star has a reputation for being uncommonly talented but also for going AWOL when expected for work, or for the community service sentences handed down to her by judges - there has also been prison time.

At 28, Lohan has been dubbed Hollywood's bad girl. The anecdote about the naked Schrader was part of a New York Times article headlined "Here is what happens when you cast Lindsay Lohan in your movie". It was Posner's idea to cast her in his production. Does he worry how things might turn out?

"Of course," he replies, then checks himself. "I ought to say I have signed a confidentiality clause. So I have to be careful. But when someone has celebrity status, sometimes for notorious reasons, inevitably one has to feel cautious. But I met with Lindsay on a number of occasions. We did a rehearsed reading and I was utterly convinced that she really wanted to make this work. Apart from anything else, it reminded me how talented she is."

Posner is no stranger to star casting. Juliette Lewis, Aaron Eckhart, Patrick Stewart, the late Natasha Richardson, Matthew Perry and Minnie Driver are among those who have entrusted their performances to the quietly spoken north Londoner, who has directed more Mamet plays than any of his British peers. Theatrical aspiration runs in his family. His father could sing but ended up as a commercial lawyer specialising in pensions. "I used to glaze over when he talked about it." His mother was one of Lionel Blair's chorus girls. She got into RADA but her father forbade her to go. And then there is Posner's younger sister who sang jazz for a while. She is a hairdresser now.

"There were repressed theatrical longings in my family," he acknowledges. "I'm the only one who kind of did it." Like his mother, Posner also got into RADA. He joined the drama school as a budding actor but came out a budding director. An often overlooked early highlight to his career came as an associate director at the Royal Court, where he nurtured Ariel Dorfman's modern classic Death and the Maiden into the brilliant play that it is. It was, Posner once told me, a difficult process during which he had to edit the work via fax to a difficult Dorfman who was on the other side of the Atlantic.

"I was a terrible actor," says Posner about his first ambition. "At RADA I realised very quickly that I wanted to do the whole thing," he adds, the "thing" being, as Shakespeare says, the play.

Today Posner might be the busiest theatre director in the country. His production of Noël Coward's Hay Fever starring Felicity Kendal is nearing the end of its run at Bath's Theatre Royal, after which it will transfer to London. Posner can currently count as many as five confirmed productions lined up, including Plow. One of them will be at the Roundabout Theatre in New York, a city that sometimes makes Posner feel more at home than London."I don't know why. It could be my Jewish roots." He agrees that the same could be said of his affinity with Mamet's dialogue. "There are certain plays and playwrights where you read and go 'yes, I really get that'.'"

It could also explain why the cast in Posner's latest Mamet production is two thirds Jewish. Schiff is Jewish, albeit in a laidback West Coast former hippy kind of way. Meanwhile Nigel Lindsay is a very London kind of Jew. But he "is very good at keying into Mamet's world and gets the language rhythms very well," says Posner who also directed Lindsay in Mamet's court room farce Romance. The actor additionally commands the kind of physical threat that goes well with a playwright like Mamet. He plays Charlie Fox, who understandably gets into a rage when sees the sure-fire hit that could make his career falling through his fingers - and all because of Lohan's Karen, secretary to Schiff's Bobby Gould. Lindsay will be good. So will Schiff as the studio top dog. The big risk, and undoubtedly the big box office draw, is Lohan. Part of Posner's job will be to make sure that the press stories that will inevitably break around Lohan as the production nears its press night stay out of the rehearsal room.

"Lindsay's so used to it," says Posner. "I don't think she reads any of it and in a way it's not my concern because I expected it to happen. We've just made the decision to keep our heads down, be as relatively low key as possible and get on with the play." Low key has been proving increasingly elusive in the wake of Lohan's recent claim that she "handled" Whitney Houston's body while completing her community service at a California morgue. But as Posner says: "The proof is in the pudding. Hopefully we will see from the play that all has gone well."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive