WEIRDLAND: Revisiting Shakespeare in modern films

Friday, June 19, 2009

Revisiting Shakespeare in modern films

Anne Hathaway wearing a black dress designed by Oscar de la Renta at Tony Awards, on 7th June 2009.

"While rehearsing the role of Viola (who pretends to be a dude named Cesario) in William Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night in NYC's Central Park, Anne Hathaway went to great lengths to — how to put this delicately? — pad her performance. ''I'd be lying if I said I hadn't walked around my apartment with a sock shoved down my front'' says Hathaway, 26, of prepping for her gender-bending part. ''I'm definitely new to the sock.''
Hathaway is also new to the Public Theater's annual Shakespeare in the Park series. In Twelfth Night, which runs through July 12, she plays opposite Tony winners Audra McDonald and Julie White, and admits that keeping up with the 17th-century poetry is draining: ''I'm a little brain-dead because of the iambic pentameter. I'm steeped in it.'' But she's no stranger to the stage — she performed at a New Jersey regional theater in her teens — or the Bard. (Odd bit of trivia: Hathaway has the same name as the great writer's wife.) ''Since the first time I did Lady Anne's monologue in Richard III,'' she remembers, noting a Shakespeare-focused acting class she took at age 15, ''I was hooked.''Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway at "Brokeback Mountain" press conference, on 2nd September, 2005 in Venice, Italy.
She's in talks to reteam with Brokeback Mountain costar Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs and is attached to Get Smart 2; the musical biopic Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland; the rom-com The Fiancé and the star-studded film Valentine's Day. ''When I signed, both Shirley MacLaine and Julia Roberts were on board',' Hathaway says of the last project. ''That was good enough for me!'' Source: www.ew.com

"When we heard Emile Hirsch would play Hamlet in a modern-times Shakespeare remake directed by Twilight's Catherine Hardwicke, flashbacks of teen flicks (most of which involved Julia Stiles) adapting 16th-and-17th-century masterpieces flooded our collective memory.It's difficult to predict how Hardwicke's Hamlet will fare, though it's certainly got an experienced creative team behind it. Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen (American Beauty) will produce, while Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, The Painted Veil) will write the story into the 21st century, setting it at an East Coast liberal arts college where Hamlet's father had been president. Drafting a fresh script already separates this update from those that have juxtaposed original-text readings with modern scenery. "You will understand everything without having a copy of Shakespeare for Dummies with you", Harwicke recently told EW. To some critics, this tactic represents the kiss of death. But perhaps Hirsch, who has proven his acting chops in recent years with Into The Wild and Milk, can help carry the movie through the obstacles that arise in taking on such a literary giant.
The Film: William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996)
The Inspiration: Romeo and Juliet
The Players: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo
The Verdict: Baz Luhrmann's masterpiece created a gorgeous visual and emotional landscape: Trash-laden, bleak-looking beaches, roadways and deserts dovetailed with the ominous gleam of fluorescent crosses and swimming pools. Swift camera angles and careening car chases dictated this visceral version of two star-crossed lovers caught between gunslinging family gangs. DiCaprio, Danes and Co. skillfully delivered Elizabethan verse while subtle details in the modern set design and costuming referenced the original play, smoothly bridging the time gap.
The Film: 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
The Inspiration: The Taming of the Shrew
The Players: Julia Stiles, Health Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
The Verdict: Shakespeare hit high school in this late-'90s favorite, which deftly translated Katherine's wrath into adolescent angst. It still holds its reign as the fun, classic teen flick that forever gave 10th-grade English students an excuse to watch Heath Ledger in class, but didn't achieve much else in the way of Shakespearian performance. Plus, it really could have done without that corny poetry reading, which would resurface in AIM away messages for years thereafter.
The Film: Hamlet (2000)
The Inspiration: Hamlet
The Players: Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Julia Stiles, Bill Murray
The Verdict: Likely the film against which Hardwicke's Hamlet will be judged, this version used its distinct relocation—the kingdom of Denmark as the corporate world in early 21st-century Manhattan—strongly to its advantage. The recently murdered CEO of Denmark Corporation must be avenged by his son, played by Mr. Reality Bites, who frequently sports a knit beanie. This update, like Romeo + Juliet before it, kept the Shakespearian verse (albeit trimmed down), and earned critical acclaim for its slick transition into the cold, high-tech world of big business.
The Film: O (2001)
The Inspiration: Othello
The Players: Mekhi Phifer, Julia Stiles, Josh Hartnett, Martin Sheen
The Verdict: The Moor of Venice went from military general to basketball MVP (with a standout performance by Phifer) in this version, re-imagining the racially charged tragedy at a vastly white Southern prep school where Hugo (Iago) and Odin (Othello) are coached by Hugo's father. Adding the daddy-doesn't-love-me trope to the plot created a relatable twist, but ultimately detracted from the inscrutable malice of Iago in the original text. Also, Josh Hartnett should probably be barred from delivering lines like: "You should watch your girl, bro."

Source: www.pastemagazine.com

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