Monday, December 20, 2010

Let's Write Shakespeare In Love 2

Ok, so I'm sure most of us saw the story, not even worth linking to, that Miramax's business plan for the next couple of years is to make sequels out of all their old hits - including Shakespeare In Love.

This immediately cast fans of the movie into two camps: the "that was an awesome movie and thus if they can capture that awesomeness again it will be even more awesome" camp, and the "You'll never replicate it, it's perfect the way it was, don't ruin it" camp.

The problem with the second camp is that Miramax is going to do it with you or without you, so the best you can hope for is not "don't do it" but "oh god I hope it doesn't suck."

So, here's what I'm thinking. Collectively, the people that hang out here probably know more about, and care more about, the subject of Shakespeare than much of the rest of the world. So, let's write the sequel. Let's put together so many ideas about what it can and should be that Miramax can't help but get wind of it and run with whatever we come up with. (I'll believe that when I see it, of course, but until then it can keep us entertained :)).

So, brainstorm. Let's go, anybody.

I heard three ideas bandied about on Twitter. One involves a midnight mission to steal and reassemble the Globe in the middle of the night. Great scene from history, and a great scene for a movie. But it's not a plot, just an event.

One tries to get Shakespeare as far away from the first movie as possible, projecting him into the Late Romance years, near retirement, having lived out a full life and approaching the end of his career, looking back on memories.

One suggested that even Gwynneth Paltrow's character could be reprised, haunting Shakespeare's vision of all his female leads for the rest of his career.

Maybe tell it through the character of his children? That has huge untapped potential, since we know so little about his relationship to them. Unfortunately the first movie establishes that the Anne Hathaway relationship is a frigid one, so that pretty much slams the door on any romance (unless you attempt a rekindling storyline, but that would be very difficult I think). Perhaps his daughter's marriage to... Thomas Quiney, was it? Wait, no, he was the one that had the scandal. Which daughter had the good marriage, Susannah? I could start to imagine a play about Shakespeare's daughter in love, her famous father cast in something of a secondary role (much, though, like Julius Caesar is to his play, a spectre over the entire production). Ooo, how about a story where his daughter (and son-in-law) conspire to somehow find Gwynneth Paltrow and reunite them? Eh, it's a thought.

Ok, somebody else go.


Cass said...

Bah, leave Paltrow out of it. Viola's in Virginia; leave her there. Give Will a new focus -- the Dark Lady drawing him out of his sorrow into entirely new troubles, perhaps? You could have a lot of fun with various theories around her and around his relationship to Elizabeth's court (or James's, depending on how late it gets set).

And you're right, the Theatre-stealing isn't a full plot, just a damn good scene. The B-plot, maybe, could revolve around financial troubles and the desire for the new space, the Globe.

I suppose something to be decided is if we'd want to mirror/focus on one of his plays as the base, like the first one did R&J. Hamlet? Macbeth? I'm inclined to go for the middle of his career, rather than careening all the way to late. (Save the late romances for the conclusion of a trilogy, perhaps? ;) Or maybe not).

Duane said...

Linked because somebody else, unbeknownst to me, said "Hey what if you projected it forward to when he was writing The Tempest"? :)

I disagree with people, though, who say "We know what happens in Shakespeare's life." Do these people really think this story happened?? Think Shakespeare in a parallel universe. Some stuff overlaps, but when you want to branch off the primary story, go right ahead. That's one of the things Stoppard is so good at.

Darren said...

I was giving this some (not much, but some) thought too. I like Cass's ideas. Leave Paltrow out of it, and go for mid-career just in case this works out and they want a trilogy. It should definitely follow production of one of his plays--that provided much of the charm of the first film.

Duane said...

But which play? I think that the first, though clearly playing on the popularity of R&J, was also offering its homage to Twelfth Night with the whole cross-dressing thing. So that's basically ruled out.

Telling an autobiographical version of the sonnets, courtesy the Dark Lady, has some potential. It's a story that people have some familiarity with. It skirts awfully close to the "Shakespeare is gay" problem, though. I don't think you could really mirror a tragedy again. I'd think that people want to see a happy ending this time.

How much to mirror his own life? Other than the timeline of when he wrote R&J there's not much that's drastically different about the first one - he could easily have still retired how to Anne Hathaway and lived out the life we knew he did (what happens in London stays in London).

So, then, what happy events happened in his life for real? I'd think the marriage of his children and birth of his grand children would have been a big one, as I've mentioned. Remember the chronology problem - if you want a young Shakespeare you'll need to deal with the whole "I just lost the love of my life" storyline still fresh in his memory, because if you dismiss it too easily you destroy the first movie. That's why I keep suggesting to push it farther out.

Mid career is fine, but back to the original question, what events in his life (or work) do you attach it to?

Oh, here's an idea - what if he meets his real life inspiration for Falstaff? Falstaff's always an amazing character, it would be fun to write him. Forget romance, make it a buddy movie :). I'm only half kidding. Imagine mirroring the Hal/Falstaff with Shakespeare/Heminges (or Kempe, depending on how you like your history). That'd be a whole different way to go. Be something of a rebranding, though - you lose much of the love story unless you jam it in sideways.

Cass said...

Ah, but aim for the last few years of Elizabeth's reign, you're still a few years on from losing Viola (especially since the movie slanted R&J's writing a bit early in his career) -- enough time for the pain to have faded, but perhaps not for full recovery, and so part of the journey could be him finding the next phase of his life. I feel like jumping to the end of his career would gloss over so much, and would hand-wave over the emotional impact of the first movie far more.

Plus, and this is down to personal preference, I'd sort of like a slightly darker movie this go-round, which is why I like the "sex and death" angle you could get focusing on the writing of one of the middle tragedies -- and why I like a Dark Lady for the heroine. It doesn't even need to be straight from the sonnets (especially since the first movie totally removed 18 from context) -- but just the idea of this more worldly woman than Viola was, some enchanting brunette, sharp and witty and sexy, who may or may not be precisely good for Will, but who draws him out of a funk. I can see a Will still missing Viola, perhaps mourning his son as well (no reason not to slant his death a little late, since the first movie did play a bit of merry havoc with the strict timeline), his popularity on the rise but him somehow just unable to enjoy it, clinging to these ghosts from his past. So maybe Hamlet would be a good choice for a focus -- he could realise that the tragic ending on stage isn't the way his life should go, that he needs to *give up* the ghosts and move on.

Darker doesn't have to mean devoid of comedy, though, and I think you could certainly work plenty in with the rest of the company. ;)

Danielle said...

Liking that last re. Dark Lady & Hamlet, though there's not much room for her as inspiration there. Could include the comedy of players up against 'boy bands', though.

Rather like the Falstaff buddy idea too. Shakespeare could be observing attempts at seduction if going more for the comedy route - Merry Wives, perhaps? With darker for himself - or playing a Cyrano role?

Uh-oh! Now I've started towards Pandarus!

Sorry, brain not functioning well right now - Will return!

Alexi said...

If you bring in the Dark Lady, Hamlet is not the play to pick.

Macbeth is. Clearly.

If you want to do some kind of yin-yang thing with Shakespeare and the women in his life and works, then the clear anti-Viola is Lady Macbeth. One is light, one is dark. One is a cross-dressing adventuress, the other a dangerously alluring femme fatale.

So, the new love interest is the Dark Lady, played as inspiration for Lady Macbeth.

Of course, this puts us in James' reign, which probably doesn't fit the sonnet chronology, but since when has Hollywood cared? ;)

Actually, there's some drama to be pulled from James being king, and the way Shakespeare has to careful in portraying his ancestors while writing Macbeth. They could make it so James initially commissioned a play that focuses on Banquo as a hero, but Shakespeare's fascination with his Lady Macbeth figure causes Will to shift the focus to the Macbeths.

So yeah, that's what I've got.

One other idea is Shakespeare deals with Daddy issues and being a father while writing 1 Henry IV. Doesn't quite fit the "Shakespeare in Love" title though.

catkins said...

Some great ideas here. I hope Tom Stoppard is reading this stuff. You guys should get credit.
I definitely agree with Darren that there has to be a play, and I am so with you Duane for Falstaff. Perfect! That being the case, it has to be Henry IV, Part 1, where Falstaff shines.
But I also agree with Cass that there has to be a love interest and the Dark Lady is the perfect candidate. No problem there, she need not be a main character in the play. Would it be better for her to be Hostess Quickly or Lady Hotspur? Could go either way, I think.
This could be a good movie!
I'm starting to look forward to it.

Ed said...

NO real time to write now, but couldn't resist.

Great ideas so far.

What about the danger Will and the actors were in/could have been in by putting on Richard II just before the Essex coup d'etat attempt?

Much Ado could provide many convenient parallels with a love story...

Moving The Theatre? Awesome scene potential.

Falstaff? Of course...a natural.

How about a supernatural element with James's interest in witches et al and a tie-in to Macbeth?

Too obvious if we see an older Will and the links to The Tempest?

Must run. Sorry.