On the cusp of last month's Oscar madness, feted director Sam Mendes is doing something mundane: he is taking his five-year-old son Joe to and from the doctor. Mendes has a lot on his plate. His film Revolutionary Road - starring his real-life wife Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio - has been nominated for several Oscars, and there is another film on its way, the comedy Farlanders, about a couple searching for an ideal place to raise their unborn child. Then there is a producer credit on Shrek the Musical on Broadway. At the stipulated telephone interview time, Mendes' personal assistant says she cannot find him and one expects him to be lost in the concentric circles of fatherhood, domesticity, celluloid fantasy, and theatrical magic. But he emerges. With the muffled sounds of car doors slamming in the background, the Manhattan-based Briton fields questions with good-natured eloquence. 'It's always fun,' he replies, a little distractedly, speaking of the glamorous Academy Awards parties. 'It'll be a nice break from doing the plays.' The plays are the result of his collaboration with London's Old Vic and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). The ambitious undertaking - dubbed 'The Bridge Project' - will stage and tour a pair of classic plays in 2009, 2010 and 2011, in a bid to facilitate exchange between British and American thespians and audiences. This year, Mendes directed a new Tom Stoppard adaptation of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, which opened in January at BAM. It's being followed by Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, starring a glittering cast that includes English stage actor Simon Russell Beale, Hollywood's Ethan Hawke, veteran Irish stage actress Sinead Cusack (incidentally, Mrs Jeremy Irons) and English actress Rebecca Hall (from Vicky Cristina Barcelona), and which will be staged in Singapore this month. Asked why he decided to tackled The Winter's Tale, regarded as one of the Bard's more problematic plays, Mendes says he has always loved the play for its 'amazing variety of tones'. When he first saw it performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford-upon-Avon in the early 1990s, he was blown away by how 'daring' the play was. 'I was astonished by how much music and song was in the middle of the play,' he says. 'You could say he basically invented American musical comedy in Act Four.' From March 26 to 31, The Winter's Tale will play at Singapore's Esplanade theatre - the only Asian stop in a tour that includes New Zealand, Spain, Germany and Greece. Fans of his movies, such as American Beauty, might note that, like his cinematic offerings, the play explores the themes of romance, marriage and jealousy. When Leontes, King of Sicilia, becomes convinced his pregnant wife Hermione is having an affair with his friend, tragedy ensues. Redemption follows 16 years later. 'I'm drawn a lot to family dynamics, love and the landscape of marriage and relationships between men and women. It's eternally fascinating,' Mendes says. Lest you think the Bridge Project is another platform for Mendes to work with his movie star wife, it won't be happening - for the next couple of years, at least. 'I'd love to work with Kate on stage,' he says, but the fact they have children means it is tough for both parents to leave home and tour with a stage production. Having picked heart-throb Hawke to play Autolycus, the singing con artist, the director is full of praise for the actor. 'There is a tiny touch of the rock star about Ethan. He's sexy, dark and slightly mysterious. He's a wonderful company man,' Mendes says. The word 'company' - in the sense of a theatrical troupe of players, with its implication of bonhomie - comes up often when Mendes speaks about the Bridge Project. It is as though the project is more than a short-term bi-cultural experiment for him, as he talks about reviving great American plays with his transatlantic cast, sketching out dreams that leap beyond the official three years. The project also reunites him with his American Beauty star, Kevin Spacey, who is now artistic director of the Old Vic. Spacey recently joked to W Magazine that: 'One of Sam's goals is to prove that you can bring Americans and Brits together and do Shakespeare and it won't be crap'. But the director's vision, it appears, is to obliterate national barriers altogether. 'That's one of the things about the Bridge Project,' Mendes says. 'It's trying to take away any distinction in the way the work is being put together ... Fundamentally, a good actor is a good actor.' Nor does he distinguish between audiences in different parts of the world, whose reception of art may or may not be influenced by cultural perspectives. The Bridge Project is also facilitating another exchange: that of smaller, international players investing in prestigious productions from the established London and New York cultural circuit. Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) is one of five co-commissioning partners that have provided seed money to get the project off the ground. With support from the Esplanade, SRT has invested S$2 million (HK$10.16 million) to co-commission and present The Winter's Tale. In 2007, SRT brought the RSC's King Lear and The Seagull to Singapore - a move that opened more doors for the Singapore company in the west. Its artistic director, Gaurav Kripalani, says these collaborations will put Singapore on the world map culturally. 'Having invested in the Bridge Project, we now have a network of partners who know who we are and what we're capable of,' he says. 'The next time we have a new show, we can go to them and, chances are, they will consider us seriously.' Local artists can also look forward to honing their technical expertise when they work with the touring company to create the Singapore and New Zealand productions of The Winter's Tale. Kripalani also says he is 'very pleased' with the box-office returns to date. But with the recession, will SRT still be on board for the remaining two years of the project, with four more plays still to come? 'It's a concern, but we've expressed our interest that we'll want to be involved,' Kripalani says.