Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 1:50PM
A new production of King Lear is beginning to look like an incredibly promising Shakespeare film. As we reported last month, Anthony Hopkins is set to tackle one of the Bard's most tortured characters, with Keira Knightley and Gwyneth Paltrow singing on to play his daughters. The only thing is, Lear has three daughters. Enter Naomi Watts, whom The Guardian confirms will play the eldest of the three girls. I guess Mom must've been quite a looker if these are her three girls...because they didn't get it from the King. Don't expect a big, glitzy Shakespeare, though, just because the actors are all Academy Award nominees and movie stars in their own right. Director Joshua Michael Stern told the paper, "The one thing that I'm staying away from is stunt casting. So there won't be the American comedian, but there will be some really great actors playing smaller roles that will make a lot of sense," he said, taking a shot at Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, which featured both Billy Crystal and Robin Williams in small roles. "I'm not very fond of the modern adaptations... It's pre-Roman, Celtic, very raw," Stern continued. "It's a period in British history, from which (J.R.R.) Tolkien took a lot of his inspiration, where there were thatched-roof roundhouses and fortresses." This description reminds me a lot of the Zeffirelli/Mel Gibson Hamlet, which is sparse, dark, and seems very authentic. I love the Branagh Hamlet, which moved the setting around a bit and was the first full version of the play ever filmed. King Lear is probably even more desperate and depressing than Hamlet, so the right setting can really help establish things for the actors. And that's one hell of a competent cast. The best news out of all of this is that there isn't really a definitive film version of Lear, one of Shakespeare's best works. This one could be on its way to filling that role.