Here are two names we never thought we’d see in the same sentence: Roland Emmerich and William Shakespeare.
In a collision of high and low culture that sounds like something The Onion might have cooked up, Emmerich, director of such cinema spectacles as 10,000 BC, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day, and the upcoming 2012, is set to direct a movie about the great Bard.
The film, titled Anonymous, tackles the controversy over whether Shakespeare actually wrote all of the plays attributed to him. It’s no secret the prolific playwright lifted plotlines and characters from history (in the case of Julius Caesar, for example) or other sources (Romeo and Juliet was brought to the stage several times before Shakespeare’s version), but some literary historians claim the philosopher Francis Bacon or rival dramaturge Christopher Marlowe authored some, if not all, of Shakespeare’s works.
Emmerich’s Anonymous focuses on a third possible author:
It’s not Marlowe, it’s De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. [Anonymous is] kind of like a political thriller. It’s about who will succeed Elizabeth and the cause of that thriller, the Essex Rebellion, we take on and we learn how the plays were written by somebody else.
Before you start thinking that this movie is going to require some serious homework to understand, remember the director we’re talking about here. Emmerich took the scientific concept of climate change and made it seriously dumbed down in The Day After Tomorrow. So don’t worry, he won’t be requiring you to think too much. In his words, the film’s pretty well researched, but “Naturally, for dramatic reasons you sometimes alter facts.”
Emmerich’s last historical recreation, the ultra-violent Mel Gibson vehicle The Patriot (set during the Revolutionary War) was panned both in Arts sections and on the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times for playing so loose with facts it misrepresented history. And seeing as his plot description uses the word “thriller” twice, I get the impression he’s not going to be as interested in the writing process or the period details as the last Shakespeare biopic to play in theaters-John Madden’s Academy Award winning Shakespeare in Love.
So get ready to have your view of Shakespeare forever ruined altered. Shooting on Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous begins March 22nd of next year, though preliminary filming has already begun.