Rumors were confirmed last week that Al Pacino will be at the Castro Theater later this month for the U.S. premiere of his new film about Oscar Wilde's controversial and once-banned 1893 play, Salomé. Also appearing is playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner, who wrote Angels in America, as well as others from the film to introduce Pacino's modern take on the play that inflamed Victorian Europe as well as helped define the career of one of the era's most provocative figures.
The film is part documentary and part theatrical re-creation. Pacino directed the film and plays King Herod. Herod, according to biblical accounts, granted his stepdaughter Salomé a reward in return for performing the Dance of the Seven Veils on his birthday. Salomé's mother persuaded her to ask her stepfather for the head of John the Baptist, presumably because he criticized the incestuous marriage of the Roman king to Salomé's mother, Herodias.
Oscar Wilde wrote Salomé during the height of his popularity in 1893, but the play wasn't performed until 1896, during a period when he was serving a two-year jail sentence after being convicted of gross indecency. The conviction came after Wilde tried to press libel charges against the local marquess for suggesting him to be a "posing [sic] somdomite." During the trial, while the marquess' accusation of sodomy wasn't precisely proven, Wilde's promiscuity was, and he was given the maximum sentence.
The film's premiere comes almost 130 years to the day after Wilde's arrival in San Francisco for a speaking engagement. The 1882 tour of America, which started in New York, would net the writer about $5,000. However, it was almost entirely sucked up by legal fees upon his return to Europe, making Salomé one of his last profitable works. Wilde died in 1900 of cerebral meningitis, destitute and exiled, in France.