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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Daniel Day-Lewis and Shakespeare


Why hasn't Daniel Day-Lewis done any Shakespeare on film?







You would think at one point or another that he would have participated in some Shakespeare film adaptation.

It is so easy to imagine him working with Kenneth Branagh and/or Ralph Fiennes.

I did some reading up on him and it came as no surprise that he did Shakespeare on stage -- he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in about 1983.

He played Romeo, and also Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In 1989, he played Hamlet at the National Theatre, directed by Richard Eyre. It was an uncut version of the play, and it ran about four hours long.



as Hamlet

He was joined by Dame Judi Dench as Gertrude. Oh, they must have been terrific together.



with Judi Dench as Gertrude


I had never heard the story of how, during a performance of this Hamlet, his emotions overcame him, and he couldn't go on. He didn't finish the run of the play.

For such a fine actor like him, it must have been quite a moment that brought on such an emotional response, and it must have been terribly excruciatingly difficult for him to decide against finishing the production.

Later he claimed in a TV interview that he had seen the ghost of his own father at that very moment. I'm not sure if we are supposed to believe this. I have a feeling that he was being provocative.

But I do find it interesting that he has never performed on stage since.

In any event, I think it is a crime that he has not done any Shakespeare since then.

Perhaps he has just not found the right Shakespeare to do.

I read recently that in 1991, Julia Roberts was going to play Viola in the film Shakespeare in Love. She insisted that the only actor who could play the part of William Shakespeare was Daniel Day-Lewis. 

But he was not interested. When she could not get him to do it, she pulled out of the film, which was set to begin only six weeks later!

It took several more years before Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes made the version that we know today.

I think he would have been remarkable as Shakespeare. But I have a feeling that he didn't want to portray Shakespeare as the film depicts him. Mr. Day-Lewis probably wanted to portray a more serious and dramatic Shakespeare.

I would love to see him doing some Solved Shakespeare, seeing him explore the world of William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, and the plays as they would have originally been performed in Shoreditch and Southwark.





All you have to do is remember him in Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood and you can easily imagine him in Elizabethan London. And Bill the Butcher and Daniel Plainview do seem like larger-than-life Shakespearean characters.

I ask you, is there a better actor for period movies? He seems to have an all-consuming love of historical periods -- he likes to eat and breathe and live as another human being in a distant time and place for months on end. Remarkable.

I think he would find the Elizabethan world every bit as fascinating as any other in which he has immersed himself.






I think he would find it a worthy challenge to communicate to us, the modern audience, the stories of struggle and sacrifice, triumph and failure of people like Shakespeare and his family and fellow actors.

I do hope that sooner than later he would lends his truly unique talent to doing some Shakespeare.

Cheers,

David Schajer


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