To Film or Not To… Ah, Forget It! The Shakespeare Roundup


Have you recently been nostalgic for those days back in high school when teachers force fed you iambic pentameter until you thought your head would explode? Well you’re in luck, because it looks like ol’ Willie Shakespeare is back with a vengeance with not one, but six upcoming Shakespeare film adaptations in the next couple of years. (Side note: This made us wonder if his estate collects publishing royalties on his work; it wasn’t copyrighted, so that’s a negative.)

Let’s start off with the one we are most intrigued by, The Tempest. No, it’s not the fact that it is being directed by Julie Taymor (of Titus and Across the Universe fame), but the fact that it has one of the most interesting casts we’ve seen in a Shakespeare work in a while! Prospero embraces his feminine side in this version, becoming Prospera — to be played by the impeccable Helen Mirren. Not enough, you say? Well how about if Mirren is backed up by Alfred Molina, Djimon Hounsou, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, and Russell Brand? Though no release date has been set, it’s still slated for a 2009 debut.

Looking for more big name actors in period dress? The two versions of King Lear in the works can help with that. The first has Al Pacino in the titular role while the other (and potentially, better, given the britsh-er cast) will star Anthony Hopkins with Keira Knightley and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Too traditional for you? Why not try one of the two new Macbeths? One (called Macbett) stars Terrence Howard and will take the Scottish Play to the Caribbean islands; the other is a futuristic version with Giles!… um, we mean, Anthony Stewart Head! Yay! Although the latter version has been in the works for three years and reportedly needs reshoots which the actor has been hesitant to do. Not a good sign. We wait with bated breath to see how it pans out.

To close out our roundup, we bring you the most recent addition to the Shakespeare redux, Hamlet. This latest version of possibly the most-filmed Shakespeare work ever will star Emile Hirsch as directed by Catherine Hardwicke. If you were thinking that name sounds familiar, you may have heard of a little movie she directed recently called Twilight. For the record, this is the same woman who gave us Lords of Dogtown and The Nativity Story, so we aren’t exactly holding our breath for an Oscar winner.

This is hardly the first wave (or should we say tsunami?) of Shakespeare movies to hit the screen, though few have managed fiscal success – Taymor and Hopkins were both involved in Titus which bombed, making just over $1m despite a buzzy cast. The more recent, *ahem* Shakespeare-inspired movie, Hamlet fared only slightly better, which sets the bar pretty low. In fact, the biggest question will be if all of Shakespeare’s greatest works can outsell his most successful movie ever, Shakespeare In Love .