I must admit that when I heard that Hailee Steinfeld was rumoured to be the lead in an upcoming adaptation of Romeo & Juliet I was less than enthused. I’m not against remakes by principals, but I don’t think anyone will ever be able to top Zeffreli’s 1968 production – unless they do some revolutionary adaptation. I’m not even too keen on the idea that Steinfeld would be closer to the actual age of Juliet – what will the MPAA say about simulated sex between two fourteen year olds? I don’t even want to go down that road, I’ve already begun to digress. Instead of another version of Romeo & Juliet I’d love for some of Shakespeare’s other works to get (credible) cinematic treatment.
Here’s a quintet of actors I’d love to see tackle the Bard.
Thandie Newton as Adriana (The Comedy of Errors)
I’m not a big fan of Thandie Newton, but even when I don’t like her performances I’m conscious that she has talent waiting to burst forth. I loved her last year in For Colored Girls where she had some excellent moments through soliloquies. And, we all know, Shakespeare loves his soliloquies. Adriana is a basic female archetype of Shakespeare. She’s halfway between loving wife and annoying shrew and I’d like to see Thandie do a film retaining her British accent. The character has one of the best female soliloquies – it has loud dramatic moments, and lighter comedic ones and it’d be interesting seeing Thandie tackle it.
Ralph Fiennes as Macbeth (Macbeth)
I consider Macbeth to be even more iconic of a character than Macbeth – that being said I loathe the Orson Welles version which amps up his evils turning it into something almost farcical. Fiennes is a brilliant actor, and he’s also thoroughly British which is often a good thing when Shakespeare is in the mix. I’m waiting anxiously to see what he does with Coriolanus, and depending on how good it is I think it’d be great for him to follow it up with Macbeth – one of Shakespeare’s most tortured souls. And, I’ve even got an idea for his wife below...
Keira Knightley as Rosalind (As You Like It)
It seems like such a strange thing to say, but Keira Knightley seems built for a cross-dressing Shakespeare role. In the same way that Gwyneth Paltrow’s Viola could have passed off the boyishness, I could see Keira doing the same and what better role than Rosalind in As You Like It? I always feel moved to defend Keira when she’s accused of lack of range for holding on to period films, but I can’t keep beating a dead horse. Rosalind is, above all else, witty and fun and considering how excellent Keira was as the witty and fun Elizabeth Bennett this seems like a no-brainer. Get Joe Wright to direct and Rosamund Pike or Romola Garai to star as her cousin and we could have a hit on our hands.
Joaquin Phoenix as Richard III (Richard III)
Cate Blanchett as Lady Macbeth (Macbeth)
This one is such a no-brainer, for me. I suppose it’s only because Shakespeare is so rarely adapted to the screen as of late, but I can’t believe that Blanchett has never done a Shakespearean piece on film. Most probably remember Lady Macbeth as one of Shakespeare most morally reprehensible women, but the way the character is written there are so many interpretations to run with. She’s nowhere near villainous for me, and is just the right amounts of tenacious and ambiguous that I’d love to see Cate tackle.
Which of these five actors would you most love to see tackle the Bard? Any suggestions of your own?