|Shakespeare in Love|
|Directed by||John Madden|
|Produced by||David Parfitt
|Written by||Marc Norman
|Music by||Stephen Warbeck|
|Editing by||David Gamble|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films (USA)
Alliance Atlantis (Canada)
Universal Pictures (non-USA/Canada)
|Release date(s)||December 3, 1998
(New York premiere)
January 8, 1999
January 29, 1999
|Running time||123 minutes|
|Gross revenue||$289,317,794 (worldwide)|
Shakespeare in Love is a 1998 romantic comedy film directed by John Madden and written by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard. Stoppard's first major success was with the Shakespeare-influenced play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
The film is largely fictional, although several of the characters are based on real people. In addition, many of the characters, lines, and plot devices are references to Shakespeare's plays.
Shakespeare in Love won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress (for Gwyneth Paltrow) and Best Supporting Actress (for Judi Dench). It was the first comedy to win the Best Picture award since Annie Hall (1977).
As the film begins, theatre manager Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) finds himself in debt to loan shark Hugh Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson). Henslowe offers Fennyman a partnership in the upcoming production of Shakespeare's newest comedy — Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter — promising that it will be a hit. However, after learning that his love was cheating on him with his patron, Shakespeare burns the original play and tries to start anew. This play will later be renamed Romeo and Juliet and be reworked into a tragedy (but with some comical undertones with a few characters, like the Nurse).
Suffering from writer's block, Will Shakespeare is unable to complete the play, but begins auditions for Romeo. A boy named Thomas Kent is cast in the role after impressing Shakespeare with his performance and his love of Shakespeare's previous work. Unknown to Shakespeare and the rest of the theatre company, Kent is young Viola de Lesseps, who desires to act, but, as women are barred from the stage, she must disguise herself as a young man to fulfill her dream.
After Shakespeare discovers his star's true identity, he and Viola begin a passionate secret affair. There are strong parallels between the pair's romance and the one in Romeo and Juliet, including the ballroom scene from Act 2 and the balcony scene immediately following it. The element of forbidden love forms the basis of Shakespeare's inspiration, and many of their conversations later show up as some of the most famous quotes in the play.
Inspired by Viola, Shakespeare begins writing feverishly. His work in progress also benefits from the off-hand advice of playwright and friendly rival Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe (Rupert Everett). Yet Shakespeare and de Lesseps know that their romance is doomed. Shakespeare is married, albeit long separated from his wife, and Viola’s parents would never permit her to marry a commoner such as Shakespeare. In fact, Viola's father has privately arranged her betrothal to Lord Wessex (Colin Firth), a poor aristocrat.
When Viola is summoned to the court of Queen Elizabeth I (Judi Dench), Shakespeare dons a woman's disguise to accompany her as her country cousin. At court, Shakespeare goads Wessex into betting fifty pounds that a play cannot capture the nature of true love. If Romeo and Juliet is a success, Shakespeare as playwright will win the money. The Queen, who enjoys Shakespeare's plays, agrees to witness the wager. The meeting's true purpose is revealed when Wessex announces his intent to marry Viola.
The Master of the Revels (Simon Callow), the Queen's official in charge of the theatres, learns that there is a woman in the theatre company at the Rose playhouse. He orders the theatre closed for violating morality and the law. Left without a stage or lead actor, it seems that Romeo and Juliet must close before it even opens, until the owner of a competing theatre, the Curtain, offers his stage to Shakespeare. Shakespeare assumes the lead role of Romeo, with a boy actor playing Juliet.
Viola learns the play will be performed on her wedding day. After the ceremony, Viola's loyal nurse (Imelda Staunton) helps her slip away to the theatre. In a final twist, shortly before the play begins, the boy playing Juliet starts experiencing the voice change of puberty. Viola takes the stage to replace him and plays Juliet to Shakespeare's Romeo. Their passionate portrayal of two lovers inspires the entire audience.
Mr. Tilney, the Master of the Revels, arrives at the theatre with Wessex, who has deduced his new bride's whereabouts. Tilney invokes the Queen's name to arrest all there for indecency. Suddenly, Elizabeth I's voice rings out from the back of the theatre: "Mr. Tilney! Have a care with my name; you will wear it out." The Queen had decided to attend the play in disguise, and says that she will handle this matter herself. Although she recognizes Viola in her disguise as Thomas Kent, the Queen does not unmask Viola, instead declaring that the role of Juliet is being performed by the boy Thomas Kent.
However, even a Queen is powerless to break a lawful marriage. Queen Elizabeth orders "Thomas Kent" to fetch Viola so that she may sail to America. She also states that Romeo and Juliet has accurately portrayed true love and so Wessex is forced to pay Shakespeare the fifty pounds, the exact amount Shakespeare requires to buy a share in the Chamberlain's Men. The Queen then directs "Kent" to tell Shakespeare to write something "a little more cheerful next time, for Twelfth Night".
Viola and Shakespeare part, never to meet again: she must accompany Wessex to a colonial settlement in Virginia. Shakespeare immortalizes her by making the main character of his new play, Twelfth Night, Or What You Will, a strong young woman named Viola who disguises herself as a boy. The final image of the film has Viola walking away down a beach, with a voice over by Shakespeare discussing his plans to write Twelfth Night and musing of its main character, "For she will be my heroine for all time, and her name will be... Viola."
The original idea for Shakespeare in Love came to screenwriter Marc Norman in the late 1980s. He pitched a draft screenplay to director Ed Zwick. The screenplay attracted Julia Roberts who agreed to play Viola. However, Zwick disliked Norman's screenplay and hired the playwright Tom Stoppard to improve it.
The film went into production in 1991 at Universal Pictures, with Zwick as director, but although sets and costumes were in construction, Shakespeare had not yet been cast, because Julia Roberts insisted that only Daniel Day-Lewis could play the role. Day-Lewis was uninterested, and when Roberts failed to persuade him, she withdrew from the film, six weeks before shooting was due to begin. The production went into turnaround, and Zwick was unable to persuade other studios to take up the screenplay.
Eventually, Zwick interested Miramax in the screenplay, but Miramax was not keen on him as director, and froze him out of the project, choosing John Madden instead. Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein acted as producer, and successfully persuaded Ben Affleck to take a small role as Ned Alleyn.
The film was considerably reworked after the first test screenings. The scene with Shakespeare and Viola in the punt was re-shot, to make it more emotional, and some lines were re-recorded to clarify the reasons why Viola had to marry Wessex. The ending was reshot several times, until Stoppard eventually came up with the idea of Viola suggesting to Shakespeare that their parting could inspire his next play.
The main source for much of the action in the film is Romeo and Juliet, which the events in the film ultimately inspire Will to write. Will and Viola play out the famous balcony and bedroom scenes; like Juliet, Viola has a witty nurse, and is separated from Will by a gulf of duty (although not the family enmity of the play: the "two households" of Romeo and Juliet are supposedly inspired by the two rival playhouses). In addition, the two lovers are equally "star-crossed" — they are not ultimately destined to be together (since Viola is of nobility promised to marry Lord Wessex and Shakespeare himself is already married). There is also a Rosaline, with whom Will is in love at the beginning of the film.
Many other plot devices used in the film are common in various Shakespearean comedies and in the works of the other playwrights of the Elizabethan era: the Queen disguised as a commoner, the cross-dressing disguises, mistaken identities, the sword fight, the suspicion of adultery (or, at least, cheating), the appearance of a "ghost" (cf. Macbeth), and the "play within a play".
The film also has sequences in which Shakespeare and the other characters utter words that will later appear in his plays:
Christopher Marlowe appears in the film as the master playwright whom the characters within the film consider the greatest English dramatist of that time — this is accurate, yet also humorous, since everyone in the film's audience knows what will eventually happen to Shakespeare. Marlowe gives Shakespeare a plot for his next play, "Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter" ("Romeo is Italian...always in and out of love...until he meets...Ethel. The daughter of his enemy! His best friend is killed in a duel by Ethel's brother or something. His name is Mercutio.") Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is quoted repeatedly: "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships/ And burned the topless towers of Ilium?"
The child John Webster who plays with mice is a reference to the leading figure in the Jacobean generation of playwrights. His plays (The Duchess of Malfi, The White Devil) are known for their blood and gore, which is why he says that he enjoys Titus Andronicus, and why he says of Romeo and Juliet when asked by the Queen "I liked it when she stabbed herself."
When the clown Will Kempe says to Shakespeare that he would like to play in a drama, he is told that "they would laugh at Seneca if you played it," a reference to the Roman tragedian renowned for his sombre and bloody plot lines which were a major influence on the development of English tragedy.
Will is shown signing a paper repeatedly, with many relatively illegible signatures visible. This is a reference to the fact that several versions of Shakespeare's signature exist, and in each one he spelled his name differently.
The writers of Shakespeare in Love were sued in 1999 by Faye Kellerman, author of the book The Quality of Mercy. Kellerman claimed that the story was lifted from her book, a detective novel in which Shakespeare and a cross-dressing Jewish woman attempt to solve a murder. Miramax derided the claim of similarity as "[an] absurd...publicity stunt". After the film's release, certain publications, including Private Eye, noted strong similarities between the film and the 1941 novel No Bed for Bacon, by Caryl Brahms and S J Simon, which also features Shakespeare falling in love and finding inspiration for his later plays. In a foreword to a subsequent edition of No Bed for Bacon (which traded on the association by declaring itself "A Story of Shakespeare and Lady Viola in Love") Ned Sherrin, Private Eye insider and former writing partner of Brahms', confirmed that he had lent a copy of the novel to Stoppard after he joined the writing team, but that the basic plot of the film had been independently developed by Marc Norman, who was unaware of the earlier work.
|Academy Awards||Academy Award for Best Picture||Won|
|Academy Award for Best Actress||Gwyneth Paltrow||Won|
|Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress||Judi Dench||Won|
|Academy Award for Best Art Direction||Martin Childs & Jill Quertier||Won|
|Academy Award for Costume Design||Sandy Powell||Won|
|Academy Award for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score (retired category)||Stephen Warbeck||Won|
|Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay||Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard||Won|
|Academy Award for Directing||John Madden||Nominated|
|Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor||Geoffrey Rush||Nominated|
|Academy Award for Best Cinematography||Richard Greatrex||Nominated|
|Academy Award for Film Editing||David Gamble||Nominated|
|Academy Award for Makeup||Lisa Westcott & Veronica Brebner||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||BAFTA Award for Best Film||Won|
|BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Judi Dench||Won|
|BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Geoffrey Rush||Won|
|BAFTA Award for Best Editing||David Gamble||Won|
|BAFTA Award for Best Direction||John Madden||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role||Gwyneth Paltrow||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role||Joseph Fiennes||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Tom Wilkinson||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography||Richard Greatrex||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay||Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Makeup & Hair||Lisa Westcott||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Sound||Robin O'Donoghue, Dominic Lester, Peter Glossop, John Downer||Nominated|
|Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music||Stephen Warbeck||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design||Sandy Powell||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Production Design||Martin Childs||Nominated|
|Directors Guild of America Award||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures||John Madden||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy||Won|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Gwyneth Paltrow||Won|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay||Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard||Won|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Motion Picture||John Madden||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture||Geoffrey Rush||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture||Judi Dench||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Awards||Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture||Won|
|Screen Actors Guild Award - Best Female Actor||Gwyneth Paltrow||Won|
|Writers Guild of America Award||Best Original Screenplay||Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard||Won|
|Academy Award for Best Picture
As Good as It Gets
|Golden Globe: Best Motion Picture, Musical
Toy Story 2
The Full Monty
|BAFTA Award for Best Film