Judi Put the Bard in the Dog House

Daily Mail, 1 November 2018
By Baz Bamigboye

Judi Dench is shining a spotlight on William Shakespeare’s all-too-often forgotten wife.

The legendary thespian, who won an Oscar for her portrait of Elizabeth I in 'Shakespeare In Love', is playing Anne Hathaway opposite Kenneth Branagh as the playwright. They appear in a film called 'All Is True', which Branagh has been directing in and around Windsor — standing in for Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare returns home to his family after his Globe Theatre burns down in London. He’s a stranger to his wife, their two daughters, Susanna and Judith, and their husbands.

Anne, a farmer’s daughter, has often been undervalued and left in the margins, but in the exclusive footage I was shown from 'All Is True', Judi brings Anne out of the shadows.

In one sequence, she takes her husband to task over sonnets he has written to other women.

‘You thought because I couldn’t read I wouldn’t mind,’ she tells him, adding that she got people to read them to her. She continues, witheringly: ‘All these years you were worried about your reputation. Have you ever considered mine?”

His daughters tell him a few home truths, too. And at one point his elder daughter, Susanna (played by Lydia Wilson) slaps her father.

It’s a film packed with high drama, poignantly told and beautifully acted — more Shakespeare in the Dog House than Shakespeare in Love.

The picture had been due to be released later next year, but when Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, joint heads of Sony Pictures Classics, visited the set and saw some of the film, they decided to accelerate the release date.

It will open in America on December 21 and in the UK in February, making the film eligible to contend for Oscar and Bafta awards.

Both Branagh and Dench are steeped in knowledge of the Bard, having appeared in countless Shakespearean productions on stage and screen — and often together. Branagh told me that Dench has ‘always been my favourite leading actress’, while Judi once told me: ‘I never say no when Ken calls.’

Branagh and screenwriter Ben Elton fact-checked the movie’s screenplay with renowned Shakespearean scholars Paul Edmondson, Head of Research and Knowledge for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and Professor Russell Jackson, an elder statesman of Shakespeare who often serves as Branagh’s textual adviser.

'All Is True' also stars Ian McKellen as the Earl of Southampton, one of Shakespeare’s benefactors.

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