To celebrate Shakespeare Day 2014 it seems only fitting that we take you on a whimsical cinematic journey, guiding you across all films that you may not have known were in fact adaptations from the works of Shakespeare. Sounds riveting, no?
And first up is a classic rom-com starring Amanda Bynes; She’s The Man. In case you missed it the first time around, the 2006 film is indeed an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, with most of the characters in the film sharing the same name (or indeed first name) as their counterparts in the Shakespeare classic. How convenient! The storyline in the film centres on Viola Hastings, a high-school soccer champ whose team has been cut. When her hopes to join the boy’s team are dashed by the extremely misogynistic team coach, she concocts a clever plan to disguise herself as her brother and play for the opposing team (Illyria). It’s essentially a mixture of revenge, masquerade and romance – and it’s actually pretty good. Largely considered a cult film, it has certain sequences which are just bizarre but oddly entertaining and is one of Byne’s best roles on screen. It’s interesting to see a modern day adaptation of a Shakespeare classic, and the element of soccer gives it the contemporary twist a piece like this needs to work.
Also lining up to take glory for the early 2000s is Get Over It, starring Kirsten Dunst and Ben Foster. So, what glorious Shakespeare piece does this movie adapt? Well, A Midsummer Night’s Dream of course! Except unlike She’s The Man, the characters fortunately don’t have the same names as their counterparts; Get Over It instead focuses around students at an American high-school, who are gearing up to star in a musical adaptation of the play, entitled ‘A Midsummer Night’s Rockin’ Eve’. It’s pretty much a quintessential teen flick, with the usual characters you’d expect from a high school, and not exactly a great deal of substance, despite being associated with the famous playwright’s work. Despite this, Get Over It does have a certain element of charm, especially with the hilarious Sisqó portraying Dennis Wallace, and the delightful Kirsten Dunst in a central role as Kelly Woods.
For some reason, the early 2000s seemed to be the prime time for Shakespeare movie adaptations, with Tim Blake Nelson’s ‘O’ gracing us with its presence in 2001. This version is a looser adaptation of the classic story of Othello, and I know what you are thinking, who is playing the role of Desdemona? Well it’s none other than Julia Stiles, who also starred in 10 Things I hate About You. Stiles plays ‘Desi’ (a short abbreviation for Desdemona), whilst Josh Hartnett portrays Hugo (this film’s Iago) with Roderigo (in the film, he is called ‘Roger’) being portrayed by Elden Henson, and Cassio (film’s version is Michael Cassio) being played by Andrew Keegan. Of course, the title character of Shakespeare’s play is, for this version, called ‘Odin James’ (Mekhi Phifer). One of Shakespeare’s more dramatic plays, ‘O’ follows suit, and by the end of the film, you may be counting how many characters are actually left alive. Julia Stiles is rather sensational in her role as Desi, as is Mekhi Phifer, and the two prove to be able to handle the dark material and do their character’s ‘justice’, even if the film is all about injustices, betrayals and deceit.
You would think by now, that we would have run out of Shakespeare Adaptations from the early 2000s, but no – apparently everyone had the same idea – go figure! Lighting up the big screen in 2003 is Deliver Us From Eva, loosely adapted from the good ol’ Shakespeare misogynistic classic; The Taming of The Shrew. LL Cool J heads up the feature film, starring as ‘Ray’, the suitor and attempted tamer of ‘Eva’, (Gabrielle Union) the shrewish woman. Fortunately, Deliver Us From Eva takes a more modern approach and being a rather more ‘loose’ adaptation, doesn’t feature so much ‘shrew taming’ or psychological torment.