The real question is not should he, the real question is why has he never done any Shakespeare??
That boggles the mind.
I found some interesting things Russell said, regarding the 1998 movie Shakespeare In Love. It appears that Russell wanted to play the part of Shakespeare himself, and there are reports that he turned down the role:
"It was a 100 percent f@^king home run, except the central character of William Shakespeare was not a f@^&ing writer -- he was not smelly enough, he was not unshaven enough, and obviously hadn't had enough to drink. He was some prissy pretty boy. What the f@^k?"
"I wanted to see that grizzly f@*ker. I wanted to see him flower. I wanted to see him blossom under the fact of love. I wanted to see where the sonnets came from. They came from the same pen of despair that wrote Timon of Athens -- I wanted to see that guy. I wanted to create a body of work that would last century after century. I wanted to see that... I wanted to play that character. I loved the script. I mean, it was an incredibly well observed script about actors. That's why I thought it was so cool."
I think he would have been a fascinating Shakespeare, and that is one of those great what ifs? in film history.
I can understand why he wouldn't want to do the film. It appears that he wanted to see the real Shakespeare, the real man. He didn't want to turn Shakespeare into a pin-up, which is how that film turned out.
From what he says, he wanted to make a film about Shakespeare that would have done for Mozart what the film Amadeus did.
And yes, I absolutely agree that such a film would last for centuries -- as a definitive depiction of Shakespeare that would never be surpassed.
Love or hate him, Russell Crowe is a passionate artist and he has had a really impressive career.
If you are only familiar with his roles in Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind then you have not seen enough of this truly versatile actor.
Go find Proof, an Australian film from 1991. It swept all of the AACTA awards (the Australian equivalent of the Academy Awards) including a best supporting actor award for Russell. It also stars Hugo Weaving, who became famous as Agent Smith in The Matrix.
Watch other early roles of his in films like Romper Stomper, The Sum of Us, and do not miss L.A. Confidential.
When I wrote my versions of Hamlet, Richard III and The Merchant of Venice I had over 100 speaking parts, and I often thought who could bring these roles to life. Who could play Shakespeare, who could play Queen Elizabeth, or Robert Cecil (Shakespeare's nemesis), or Richard Burbage or Will Kemp.
When I thought of Will Kemp, I couldn't help but think of Russell Crowe.
Will Kemp was arguably the first superstar celebrity actor and performer in the Elizabethan period.
Having him in your acting company guaranteed you box-office success.
He could draw crowds.
As such, Shakespeare wrote roles for him that would be the talk of London: Falstaff, Juliet's Nurse, Feste and so on.
But the play in which I discovered who Will Kemp really was is The Merchant of Venice.
Shakespeare wrote the role of Launcelot for Kemp. Launcelot is a minor character, easily forgotten by most people. But he has the most important part of the play. He is the key that unlocks the meaning of the play.
And his scenes as Launcelot steal the whole show.
Kemp could do comedy and tragedy, he could sing, he could dance and I am positive that when it came time to do a jig at the end of every show, he was in charge.
In 1599, Kemp left Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain's Men. We don't know why.
I think he left because Shakespeare was taking his plays in a direction that Kemp did not like, and Kemp would rather not continue acting with and for Shakespeare.
I don't think their parting was amicable. I think they fought about the future of the Lord Chamberlain's Men.
There are not many actors who could pull this off, and stand toe to toe with Shakespeare.
Russell Crowe could.
David B. Schajer
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