Wednesday 3 September 2008

But where's my fool?

I just read an older article on The Guardian online about a new film version of Shakespeare's King Lear that will be coming out in the next couple of years. Set to star Anthony Hopkins as the man, and Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Watts, and Keira Knightley as his daughters, it will also feature a number of big names (as yet to be determined) in smaller roles. And for all you kids addicted to Vin Diesel films, the battle scenes are going to be totally awesome and big budget, according to the site Film School Rejects.

The director (Joshua Michael Stern), whose credits include adaptations of Classical Greek plays such as Queer Eye for the Homeless Guy and Jewz N The Hood, insists that he'll keep his version of King Lear traditional insofar as it won't feature Lear raging at the storm while executing a hip hop dance routine or Goneril and Regan got up like gangsters' molls.

In spite of my obvious enthusiasm about this new film version of King Lear, I do have some reservations about the casting. I'm not worried about Gwyneth Paltrow, however, who is a classically trained British thespian trapped in the body of an American starlet whose agent thinks it's a good idea to get her roles in gems like Shallow Hal.

Keira Knightley has already helped crucify one great book-into-film endeavour (Pride and Prejudice), though in fairness, it would have sucked anyway - I just don't think Austen imagined her characters to be quite so gushy. Knightley looks to me like an emaciated vampire gearing up to rip out your jugular - oh and she generally can't act very well either, though her performance in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl should at least have earned her an Oscar nom.

Anthony Hopkins isn't an obviously bad choice but I don't think he's an interesting choice either. I've seen him in quite a number of productions of Shakespeare's plays and he's pretty much the same every time, although I will give him kudos for appearing to understand what he's saying. He just seems to imagine that Shakespeare's heroes feel only two things, regardless of the situation: rage and confusion.

I would be even more pleased about this new film version if Stern had cast Sir Ian McKellen, what with the latter having just finished a world tour playing Lear. McKellen is a veritable genius and y'all should see his version of Richard III. My hubby theorizes that Stern may have been afraid to cast McKellen because people will associate him too completely with Gandalf and Magneto.

But I think that can't be it, because it's just as likely that people won't be able to stop thinking of Hannibal Lecter when they see Hopkins up on the screen, especially when he eats off Cordelia's face at the end (which he'll have to do before Cordelia, played by Knightley, eats his face off!).

Several other crucial roles have yet to be cast: Edmund, Gloucester, and the Fool. All I'm going to say right now is, if they get Orlando Bloom to play Edmund or Jack Black to play the Fool, I'm going to punch someone in the neck.

Here are the links that inspired this little pre-review:


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I've always been a fan of Shakespeare on film. Especially foreign adaptations like Akira Kurosawa's efforts like "Throne of Blood" (Macbeth) or "Ran" (King Lear), Peter Greenaway's "Prospero's Books", even Mel Gibson as Hamlet (smirk!). Oddly enough K. Branagh never did much for me.

I guess it comes down to how far your prepared to get away from the traditional presentation.

I suggest a cameo by Cate Blanchett as King Lears' fool. Her performance as Bob Dylan, in "I'm Not There" proved to me she can be anything.

A female fool could be an interesting foil to King Lear

Just a thought...

Anonymous said...

What about Don Rickles for Lear?

Bookphilia said...

Wayne: I think the idea of having Cate Blanchett play the Fool is brilliant! Assuming that the director reads this blog, I'm sure it'll happen.

Dr. K: I can't believe I didn't think of Don Rickles! But maybe he'd make a better Cordelia than Lear?