“To be or not to be; that is the question.” These iconic words from “Hamlet” belong to William Shakespeare, who wrote approximately 38 plays, 154 sonnets and two epic poems in his lifetime.
Or did he?
Director Roland Emmerich’s new film Anonymous, set to open Oct. 28, questions whether or not Shakespeare wrote his plays amidst a variety of political scandals, greedy noblemen and illicit romances during the rise of the London stage.
While there is evidence for both arguments, Emmerich feels that Shakespeare was not responsible for his writings. “I really believe that Shakespeare of Stratford was not the writer, otherwise I would have never made this movie,” Emmerich said. “There’s a thousand reasons…everything we know about him during his lifetime is not the facts of a writer.”
Anonymous stars Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Xavier Samuel, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, Edward Hogg, Jamie Campbell Bower and Derek Jacobi. The movie was filmed in Berlin, Germany.
Aspiring filmmakers should take note that directing a film is no easy feat. Emmerich conducts a plethora of research before diving into his work: “I do [research] with everyone of my films. For this movie, I read enormous amounts. When the original script was written 16-17 years ago, not as many books were published on the subject. I read both sides, I always wanted to keep myself on my toes. I read a lot about history of the time, you have to, because you want to be relatively accurate when you make a movie.”
Emmerich noted that he has a passion for this type of history and literature – when he was around 15 or 16 years old, he was reading Dostoevsky (author of Crime and Punishment). Emmerich said this passion definitely shines through the film. “It’s cued for adults…if it reaches an audience it will reach an intelligent adult audience,” he said.
Emmerich hopes that moviegoers will learn by the film’s end the importance of words. “[Anonymous] is all about one of our most famous and important writers in the world,” he said. “Words can be powerful, words can be incredibly powerful and important, especially in our day and age.”
In turn, Emmerich said that regardless of who wrote “Shakespeare’s” plays, they are works of merit and should be read over and over again. “We have to expect that people will come out of the movie and want to read Shakespeare again and read it differently…you can read it at different stages of your life,” Emmerich said. “He’s so multi-fashioned, that’s probably why people are so fascinated with this authorship question.”
Emmerich said he is currently working on a film called Singularity, a love story across separate continents and two time periods, set to premiere in the near future.
What is Emmerich’s favorite film? He said he often receives this question, and chuckled that he often responds the same: “I always tend to like my newest best, it’s always very fresh in my mind. Before [Anonymous], probably The Patriot.”