Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends…
Shakespeare and science fiction aren’t necessarily the most obvious mix, but as proven by the 50s classic “Forbidden Planet” (and to a lesser extent, Godard‘s post-apocalyptic “King Lear,” which refers to the play more than it adapts it), it can work, and it sounds like someone else is making an attempt at giving a fantastical twist to a classic play.
A tweet from Production Weekly alerted us to the existence of “Henry5,” a sci-fi thriller based on “Henry V,” which the trade claimed had an impressive cast attached, in the form of Michael Caine, Ray Winstone, Gerard Depardieu and Derek Jacobi, not to mention, somewhat less impressively, footballer-turned-DTV-action-villain Vinnie Jones. A quick dig around has revealed that the information is legitimate — the project’s one of several being sold by Darclight Films, the production division of the Arclight chain, at the American Film Market.
The company’s website reveals that the project will be directed by Michael Anderson, an experienced DoP-turned-director who’s worked on commercials for Ridley Scott Associates, with a script from Anderson, Andrew Hislop and Steve Wilkinson that will allegedly incorporate aspects of “Henry V” and both parts of “Henry IV.” Wilkinson’s also producing, alongside another Ridley Scott alum Nigel Wooll, a co-producer on “G.I. Jane,” and Stephen Evans, who was Kenneth Branagh‘s producing partner on the seminal 1989 film version of the same play.
The site also has a teaser poster for the film, and a synopsis: “In an age of apocalypse, in a land without a leader, a dissolute prince finds redemption when he crushes a rebellion that threatens to destroy his father’s kingdom. But upon assuming the throne himself, he immediately engineers a war against a neighboring state to slake his lust for power. Despite his enemy possessing weaponry rendering their forces almost invincible, the newly crowned king seizes a glorious victory from the jaws of defeat by ruthlessness and cunning. But for all his wiles there’s one thing the young monarch has overlooked. Just as he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure victory, so is his enemy…”
Assuming all the actors end up in the project (and pre-sales being a somewhat woolly field, we’d be surprised if all five names made it through), we’d imagine that Caine would play Henry IV, Winstone a role based on Falstaff, and Depardieu the French King. We can only pray that Vinnie Jones isn’t set for the lead role…
On one hand, the idea of an action sci-fi take on the play, however loosely adapted, sounds a little silly, and the behind-the-scenes talent is somewhat unproven — but then again, the 1950s version of The Playlist would have said the same about “Forbidden Planet.” There’s four great actors attached, and the film’s tagline, “How Will They Justify Why They Went To War?,” suggests a political subtext that’ll hopefully prevent it from seeming too low-rent. It surely can’t be as bad as Julie Taymor‘s “The Tempest,” looks, anyway. We’ll see in the coming weeks if the film picks up enough pre-sales to move forward.