Gatsby actor's own father to play his on-stage dad

A cardiologist with no acting experience might not usually be a theatre director's first choice for a key role. But when John Collins was looking for someone to portray the father of the title character in an enactment of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, he went straight to the real-life dad of the actor playing Gatsby.

Now Ross Fletcher is among a 13-strong cast performing the UK premiere of Gatz in London on Friday. The 75-year-old chief of staff at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington DC and professor of medicine at Georgetown University, plays Henry C. Gatz. His actor son, Jim Fletcher, plays his on-stage son Jim. In Fitzgerald's book, readers learn Jay Gatsby's real name is James 'Jimmy' Gatz.

"They were looking for someone who looks like my son's father," said Ross, who had never acted before accepting the role. "I do look like him and sound a little like him, so it makes the perfect fit. Then all I needed to do was learn how to act."

In Gatz, an office employee finds a copy of Fitzgerald's 1925 novel on his desk and starts to read it aloud – and does not stop. The office staff bring the book to life. The eight-hour play, which has been a hit in New York, is spread over four parts with breaks.

Audience members worried they might nod off during the lengthy show should spare a thought for Ross's son. "Often when it's that late in the play, my main concern is to not fall asleep and when he [Ross] comes on and starts talking, that's the point if I were to fall asleep [I would] because it's so soothing," said Jim, of Brooklyn, who took up acting 13 years ago following the birth of his daughter, Shana. "One of my earliest memories is being in my bed in my room and hearing him speaking out in the other room to someone else. It's a very basic thing I had forgotten about until I started doing this."

The 48-year-old is, however, yet to see his dad perform. "I guess it doesn't spoil the story [to say] that when he is on [stage] I am dead so I don't actually see him, but I feel him on stage quite a lot when he comes close to me," he said. "I can feel his breath on my cheek, I can smell him, I can hear him; but I don't get to see him, so I still haven't seen my dad act except on video tape."

While off-stage his father, as a physician, is used to checking for vital signs, Jim is doing his best to suppress them on-stage. "It's very odd to commit to being dead for my dad," he admits. But he will do so for 23 performances at Noel Coward Theatre, which is hosting Elevator Repair Service's production as part of this year's London International Festival of Theatre.

Ross, who lives in Ashton, Maryland, is taking a long holiday from his day job to perform in London. His wife Margaret, son David, and three of his grandchildren are making it an even bigger family affair by joining him and Jim in the capital.

Despite having already starred in 158 performances of Gatz across the globe, he still relishes treading the boards with his son. The cardiologist, whose granddaughter Shana persuaded him to take the role, sees it as a "wonderful opportunity". But would he consider acting in other shows after Gatz? "Any time there's a need to play the father of my son, I'm available!"

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week