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Legend Watch: Shakespeare as Hollywood Screenwriter, Dame Judi as Career Sage

Legend Watch: Shakespeare as Hollywood Screenwriter, Dame Judi as Career Sage

– Ralph Fiennes’s Coriolanus marks his directorial debut and reveals his admiration for William Shakespeare. His film is a contemporary retelling of the Bard’s political thriller. “I can’t help thinking if he [Shakespeare] were alive and writing today, he’d be writing for cinema. His stories and language are cinematic,” he said at the Berlinale, where the film premiered. Meeting the press, he had his three producers — Julia Taylor-Stanley, Gaby Tana and Colin Vaines — stand and bow, wanting applause from “the roomful of film journalists who know how difficult it is these days to get an independent film made.”

Coriolanus is set to be released this November by The Weinstein Co.

Now that he’s tackled Coriolanus, written by John Logan (Gladiator) with Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler and Jessica Chastain, Fiennes wants to take on another Shakespeare play with a contemporary setting. “We have talked about it and, well it’s Anthony and Cleopatra that I keep coming back to. Apart from the fact it is one of the greatest love stories ever told, it also moves effortlessly between Egypt to Rome to the ocean and is very cinematic.” On his fight scenes with Butler, Fiennes admitted he wanted them to be full of sexual tension, he wanted them to “appear like a sexual act.”

And Furthermore–described by legendary actress-turned-author Judi Dench to the NYTimes as “a 268-page addendum” to John Miller’s biography Judi Dench: With a Crack in Her Voice–goes on sale today in the U.S. With Miller’s help, Dench brought the book to life via transcripts of the pair’s taped conversations throughout their years as friends. The book chronicles her 54-year stage and film career. In the preface she confirms “this is not the final word,” and that she plans to work “right to the end.”

Dame Dench is indeed keeping busy, having just wrapped The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in India and started shooting J. Edgar with Clint Eastwood and his stellar cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts and more. Not to mention her role in March’s Jane Eyre (with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender), May’s latest Pirates of the Caribbean franchise flick, the London production of Sondheim on Sondheim later this year, plus her return as intelligence agent “M” to Daniel Craig’s Bond in 2012’s Bond 23 with director Sam Mendes.

Why doesn’t she want to rest? At 76, she says: “What is the percentage of people doing the job they absolutely love in this world?…Two percent? Three? Surely not more. I don’t want to rest…It’s like putting a car in a garage. It’s hard to get it started after that.”

The NYTimes believes that readers of And Furthermore will conclude that Dench’s philosophy on life is “take your art seriously but never yourself.” Here’s some awards season campaigning advice from Dench, who won best supporting actress for Shakespeare in Love: “By the end you’re absolutely cross-eyed…You can’t really award prizes for acting anyway. Acting is such a personal, imperfect kind of art.”

[Photo: Young Dench as Ophelia in Hamlet, 1967 at the Old Vic Theatre – Keystone/Getty Images]

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