After 2012 gets released, action-thriller director Roland Emmerich plans on trading in tidal waves and earthquakes for a more subtle and dramatic challenge, Shakespeare. Or rather a fictional story about the man who may have actually written Shakespeare’s plays.
You might see this as a huge jump for Emmerich, who won’t have the big budget and special effects that he’s used to for his next film, but there’s a connection between the two. So far, every feature we’ve seen from him has been a form of fiction based on realistic theories. He definitely has a passion for what MIGHT be true and likes to bring us the most dramatic version possible. It works with destroying the world, now let’s see if it works with 17th century playwrights.
The screenplay was written by John Orloff, who wrote A Mighty Heart and the TV series Band of Brothers so this film has the chance to be more than just a “thriller,” possibly even something with insight and depth. People like to question the reality around Shakespeare’s works, in the same way they’re curious about the theories behind 2012. In a way, Emmerich’s taking what he does best and putting an academic spin on it.
Are you going to have to scale back a bit for your Shakespeare project?
Emmerich: Yeah, you cannot do a Shakespeare project for that kind of money (laughs). I’ve actually had this project for 8 years. It’s always supposed to be my next movie, but this time I’m really going to do it because I’m already set to shoot on March 22 and I’m in the casting process right now, which for me is the most nerve racking because you have to make decisions. I start shooting, in 4-5 days, the first plates.
What’s it about?
Emmerich: It’s a story about how it came to be that William Shakespeare was not the author of [his] plays.
Emmerich: No, not Marlowe, it’s [Edward] De Vere a playwright out of Oxford. It’s a little bit like a political thriller. It’s about who will succeed Elizabeth’s [reign] and the cause of that thriller is the Essex rebellion. You learn how it could have been that the plays were written by somebody else who never ever could stay clear [of trouble].
How accurate will it be in terms of the Elizabethan context?
Emmerich: Well, it has been very well researched. The writer is John Orloff, he has worked on the script for two years before I got involved and he did a really, really good job. I just discussed it with several actors who are very knowledgeable of the time and they were really pleased at how accurate it is. Naturally you always have real events sometimes and facts for the dramatic reasons, but it’s pretty well researched.
He later talked about how although people associate him with huge end of the world projects, 2012 will likely be his last film in the disaster genre, at least for a while. He said that they “had to convince him” to do this and it seemed as if he was more than ready to take on another type of movie.
Peet: It is really incredible how intimate he is able to be, and how gentle, and how he never loses his cool. I remember one particular scene with John with our kids… he just kept saying, you’re not getting it, this is about you and him and your relationship… He’s just incredibly smart and very intuitive about very subtle things. On this massive scale he becomes incredibly intimate and doesn’t stop shooting, even a small moment like that, until it has subtext, emotion, and something really authentic.
Cusack: I concur. I’ve worked on some movies on big scopes, it’s very rare to meet a director that can do both.
That being said, when asked if he would ever do another film like his former he said “never, say never.”
Do you think Roland Emmerich can pull off a Shakespearean period piece?