Overture Films recently announced plans to produce a modernized version of the classic Shakespearean drama Hamlet. The film will feature Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer) as the famed Prince of Denmark and will be helmed by Twilight director, Catherine Hardwicke. The two previously worked together on the 2005 drama, Lords of Dogtown.
From film luminaries like Akira Kurosawa to stalwart Shakespeareans like Kenneth Branagh, many directors have taken turns adapting William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy over the years. While many have criticized Catherine Hardwicke for her association with the Twilight franchise, her experience directing films focused on disenfranchised youth (Thirteen) could lend a unique modern sensibility to Hamlet.
Of course, the operative word here is could. Shakespeare adaptations have been notoriously hit-or-miss at the theater and, as seen from his turn in the box-office bomb Speed Racer, Emile Hirsch, while undeniably talented, is far from proven as a bankable leading man.
The most recent attempt to modernize Hamlet, Michael Almereyda’s 2000 adaptation, featured Ethan Hawke as Prince Hamlet lost in a world of towering Manhattan skyscrapers and isolated by technology. While Almereyda’s vision spawned a number of term papers from Shakespeare scholars, the movie received mixed reviews from popular critics. According to Hardwicke, her version of Hamlet will focus more on the inherent suspense of Shakespeare’s work, showing some of the action that goes on behind the scenes at Elsinore. Here are some things she said in a recent statement about the project:
“In our version, we’re working hard to make Hamlet a thrilling cinema experience – the violent, intense, and romantic scenes that happen ‘off-stage’ in the play will be shown in vivid detail.”
While it is probably the wrong comparison to make, I immediately thought of Baz Luhrmann’s frenetic Shakespearean adaptation, Romeo+Juliet. That film, which set the original language of Romeo and Juliet against the urban Miami-like “Verona Beach” received generally positive praise for its creativity and unique visual style.
What do you think? Would you go see a Catherine Hardwicke-directed Hamlet? Are modern adaptations of Shakespeare worthwhile?
The release date for Hamlet is pending.