The man behind the CGI curtain, reveals a new side to his filmmaking — director Roland Emmerich, known for his amazing special effects, is soon to be thought of for his heart and knowledge of Shakespeare. Anonymous, his up and coming film is a sexy way of giving people a possible history lesson, that somehow manages to also hold a great deal of meaning.
He took his time making this film, earning his stripes as a director over the past decades with numerous big budget hits. This is a risky film in a number of ways, one that I’m sure needed convincing, but something that Emmerich has quite obviously wanted to make for some time and believed in. He was right to take his time, because in doing so he was able to make this film in the right way, get the right script, with the right cast, be in a position to make bold calls and have people listen, and in the end, he was able to deliver the right message.
Roland Emmerich film in terms of look and scale, but with an extraordinary amount of heart, how do you start with all this?
Roland Emmerich: You start with a great script. We worked very hard on the script for 3-4 years and there were many, many tries and many, many revisions, until we came to this script. And then you try to find the best possible actors and I was very fortunate, that everyone was in agreement that it should be an all English cast. It was very nice to be very free with everything from casting who was best for these characters.
It certainly seems like you have a cast of all “first choices”!
RE: Yes, though it’s also about schedules. Most of these actors they work out of the theater, so you have to figure out how to manage all that.
Well Vanessa Redgrave is a legend and rightfully so, and both her and her younger counterpart Joely Richardson were just amazing. How did you work that parallel?
RE: They’re both amazing actors and that’s what counts in this kind fo story. Especially Vanessa, she has to be convinced of what she plays. She’s not only acting she has to understand and be able to breath what the script says which is quite challenging because this film is a very extreme view and she wanted to have an even more extreme point of view, she believed very much in it.
That must be such a joy to work with, and great actors can make anything real, even green screen!
RE: Yes, everyone asks me, “is it hard to shoot in front of green screen” and I always say “not at all” good actors make you forget that there is even a green screen there!
Where did the inspiration for the prologue come from?
RE: For the longest time it was not there. We would send out send the script out for people to read it, we always gave them 1-2 pages of facts about William Shakespeare of Stratford, and at one point this is not going to fly. It was important that people got this piece of paper because if they didn’t, they were always asking “What is true? What is not true? I didn’t even know that there was a problem!” I knew that we had to do something and I was editing in England, and I was walking in my house in Knightsbridge to Soho where our editing room was, and where the theater district also is, and I was walking past these theaters and then one day it suddenly hit me — open in the theater! Pretend this is all a theater play! It’s a very Shakespearen device to have a prologue, which he did for his plays, so it was a very appropriate device to have.
There are a number of theories behind Shakespeare’s plays, how did you settle on this theory?
RE: Well the script, which inspired me, but now, after about 10 years of reading about it all, I would say that Oxford is the most likely. He was a theater man himself, an actor, he was a collaborator, he was all these thing, and did many of the things Shakespeare must have done. And there are a lot of things in his life that just match the plays. But Stratfordians don’t want to see that, “why a noble man”? And I would say, wasn’t Shakespeare the biggest snob of them all? He wrote only about kings and queens, even his comedies mostly took place in a court setting. It’s not the point of view of a commoner. Walt Whitman said that, all of Shakespeare’s works are from the point of view of an Aristocrat.
This is definitely a sexy, history lesson for people to get at the theaters!
RE: Exactly! I just hope that the people have an open mind about these things because it gives you a different version of William Shakespeare and a different version of the way that his plays were performed and written. For me, the theme that “the pen is mightier than the sword” is for me, the most important message of all. I think in general for our day and time, people are battling with that. And all the politics, everyone always thinks that politicians are benign, they can’t be benign otherwise they wouldn’t be successful, it was important for politicians especially in that time to be working with every possible tool.
See Emmerich’s film, Anonymous in theaters starting October 28th!