Branagh Tackles 'Macbeth'

Daily Variety, May 12 1999
by Adam Dawtrey

Actor-director Kenneth Branagh, currently in post-production on ``Love's Labour's Lost,'' plans to start shooting ``Macbeth'' this fall.

Branagh is writing the adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy and will play the title role as the Scottish nobleman who murders his way to the throne. No other cast is yet attached. But in a departure from his previous practice, Branagh may relinquish directing chores.

``We've been talking to some other people, but at the moment it's possible that I still might end up directing it, depending on how the script goes,'' he told Daily Variety.

After interpreting ``Love's Labour's Lost'' as a 1930s musical, he is trying to make his ``Macbeth'' even more modern.

``It's one of Shakespeare's shortest plays, and it will be a short, tight film,'' he said. ``The ultimate goal is to make this completely contemporary in feel. With each Shakespeare film I've moved forward in history, and my last film was set in the '30s, so maybe with this one I'll get to the present day.''

Branagh described ``Macbeth'' as ``a rather horrifying mirror of our age,'' particularly in the way witchcraft obsesses its characters. ``The superstition at the heart of the play seems to have gripped us, especially as we approach the millennium,'' he explained. ``The world seems enslaved to horoscopes, new age philosophy, signs. There's this ongoing dread of what's going to happen at the end of the year.''

He also finds modern echoes in ``the desperation, the lust for power, the lust for acquisition'' which drive Macbeth. But Branagh is determined to retain the ``primal, tribal energy'' of the play's Dark Ages setting.

``You have to make sure that the contemporary setting and feel doesn't diminish the ideas. It has to be set in a world where murder, war, witchcraft, superstition and sex are at the forefront of everyone's experience.''

Branagh said he has ``a cunning plan'' that he believe will solve this creative conundrum, as well as the question of how closely to stick to the play's Scottish identity. However, he is keeping the details close to his chest.

The film will again be designed by Tim Harvey, who worked on ``Love's Labour's Lost,'' and will be produced by Branagh's regular partner David Barron. Branagh expects to complete the screenplay within the next month. Shooting will take place at London's Shepperton Studios.

Branagh is making the films under a three-picture deal between his Shakespeare Film Co. and film company Intermedia.

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