Anyone who’s become accustomed to director Roland Emmerich destroying worlds, whether by alien invasion or the effects of global warming, by rampaging lizard or Mayan forecast, may be surprised by the direction he takes with his new movie Anonymous, which examines the often-debated subject of whether or not William Shakespeare could have possibly written the plays and sonnets for which he’s often credited.
Working from a screenplay by John Orloff (“Band of Brothers”), Emmerich’s latest explores the reasons why Shakespeare couldn’t possibly have written the plays, and that they were more likely to have been written by someone in court. It’s long been theorized by certain camps that author was likely to be Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, a royal who found joy in writing poetry and plays but was constantly repressed by his foster father, William Cecil, and his position of power. In the movie, De Vere is played by Rhys Ifans (who is also playing Dr. Curt Connors in next year’s The Amazing Spider-Man) and Jamie Campbell Bower (“The Twilight Saga”) in a dual role with the story taking place in two concurrent storylines set 40 years apart.
Much of the film deals with the relationship between De Vere and Queen Elizabeth I, played in the past by Joely Richardson (“Nip/Tuck”) and 40 years later by Richardson’s mother Vanessa Redgrave. Shakespeare himself is played by Rafe Spall (who recently starred opposite Anne Hathaway in One Day) as a drunken opportunist and a bit of a buffoon, while Australian actor Xavier Samuel (The Loved Ones) plays De Vere’s ward, the Earl of Southhampton.
The results are a lush period piece that not only shows some of Shakespeare’s works as they may have been staged at the Globe Theater, but also gets heavily into the complexities of the politics of royalty during his times.
Last month,ComingSoon.net had a chance to talk with all four actors as well as Emmerich himself, while they were attending the Toronto Film Festival with the movie. We spoke with the actors about getting involved with a movie that debunks the myth of one of their trade’s most beloved and respected playwrights. Emmerich, Richardson, Ifans and Bower talked to us about the dual casting aspect of two of the movie’s main roles and how they developed those characters. Lastly, we asked all the actors what it was like working with Roland Emmerich in a movie in which he isn’t destroying worlds.
You can watch edited highlights of these interviews below.
Anonymous opens in select cities on Friday, October 28. Look for our lengthier interviews with Emmerich and screenwriter John Orloff later this week.