24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Historical Dramas

'Anonymous': Hollywood takes on the Shakespeare debate

October 5, 2011 | 12:53 pm

Roland Emmerich is best known for ending the world with brio in movies such as “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow.” With his newest film, “Anonymous,” the German director has taken on a more highbrow, if equally explosive, subject: the true authorship of Shakespeare’s works.

On Tuesday night in a ceremony at Sony Pictures, the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles presented Emmerich with its Crystal Quill award for his 10-year effort to make “Anonymous,” a movie due in theaters Oct. 28 that posits the theory that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford  (played by Rhys Ifans),  actually wrote the plays and poems attributed to William Shakespeare.

“It’s a very gutsy thing to do,” Emmerich said in a speech of the group’s decision to award him the prize. “You will learn in the next few weeks. It will not go over that well.”

In Emmerich’s tale of Elizabethan intrigue, from a script by John Orloff, Shakespeare is a subliterate, narcissistic actor providing a front for a nobleman whose literary gifts are considered beneath his class. Vanessa Redgrave plays an admiring and politically vulnerable Queen Elizabeth and Rafe Spall is the puckish Shakespeare. Emmerich said he shot the film with an uncharacteristically thrifty $25 million, an all-British cast and some selectively chosen visual effects to convey the grime and glory of 16th century England.

The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles has already taken heat for acknowledging a movie that discredits its namesake Bard, according to its founding artistic director, Ben Donenberg. “I started getting hate mail,” Donenberg said when introducing the movie. “How dare we take this on? This film… will only propel the debate.”

The Shakespeare Center recognized another Hollywood mover and shaker Tuesday night -- attorney Bert Fields, who wrote the 2005 book “Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare,” in the hours when he wasn’t handling deals for A-list clients such as Tom Cruise and James Cameron.

“The fact that we don’t know if the man from Stratford really wrote these works doesn’t detract from them,” Fields said of the authorship question. “It’s a marvelous mystery.”


Disaster flick auteur Roland Emmerich takes on William Shakespeare

Wooly but not mammoth?

-- Rebecca Keegan


Photo: Rhys Ifans as the Earl of Oxford in "Anonymous." Credit: Columbia TriStar Marketing Group Inc.

Paul Revere movie looks to, um, ride into theaters

April 11, 2011 |  6:24 pm

The historical dramas are coming.

This weekend, Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator,” about the trial of accused John Wilkes Booth conspirator Mary Surratt, opens in theaters. It won't be the last film about American history. The production company behind that movie will next tackle the story of Paul Revere and William Dawes, and the famous ride the pair took before the battles of Lexington and Concord, in a new project called “Midnight Riders.”

Revere Executives at the firm, the American Film Co., say they have bought rights to “Paul Revere’s Ride,” a book from Pulitzer Prize winner David Hackett Fischer, and hired screenwriters Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone (“Intolerable Cruelty”) to write the script for "Midnight Riders." The company, whose creative mission involves making movies about U.S. history, is close to settling on a director.

Principals describe the Revere film as containing a bit more action than "The Conspirator," whose parries are more of the verbal variety. "This is a historically accurate swashbuckler about the spark of the American Revolution, with horses, gunfights, swords and a little bawdiness," said American's Brian Falk.

The movie will concentrate on the espionage elements of the event; while almost any schoolchild can tell you about Revere's ride, few of us know how he knew what he did, and the challenges he and Dawes faced in obtaining that information. "For people who grew up mainly with the [Longfellow] poem, it's a far more interesting story," said the company's Rob Stone.

Like “The Conspirator,” a courtroom drama that looks to deepen our understanding of Booth’s fatal attack on the 16th president, the Revere film, Falk and Stone say, tells the story you thought you knew. "In the same way people believe Booth was the lone gunman, a lot of people believe Revere was the lone rider," Stone said. "He actually had a lot of help."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Image: Paul Revere, as painted by John Singleton Copley


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