First Glimpse of "Anonymous," Roland Emmerich's Loony Take on the Shakespeare Debate

Slate's Culture Blog
April 7 2011 3:38 PM

First Glimpse of "Anonymous," Roland Emmerich's Loony Take on the Shakespeare Debate

Sony Pictures has just released the first trailer for Anonymous , Roland Emmerich'sforthcoming conspiracy thriller and my Most Anticipated Film of 2011. As DanaStevens wrote about last year in her dispatch from thefilm's Berlin set , Anonymous isexplosion master Emmerich's unlikely take on the Shakespeareanauthorship debate that deathless back-and-forth over who, exactly, wrotethe 30-odd plays and scads of poems traditionally attributed to the glover'sson from Stratford-upon-Avon.

You can't tell from the trailer you can't tell much from thetrailer, besides the fact that the goatee-and-moustache combo was super-hot in RenaissanceEngland but Anonymous actually dramatizesthe most bonkers of possible authorship theories. It not only posits that Edwardde Vere, the 17 th  Earl of Oxford, wrote Shakespeare's plays a commonenough hypothesis from the so-called anti-Stratfordians but also that de Verewas ... wait for it ... the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I. But there's more! "Unaware of his royal lineage," Dana wrote last spring,"de Vere became the queen's lover as an adult, thus siring his own brother/son ,Henry Wriothesley, the 3 rd Earl of Southampton (the man to whom manysane scholars believe the sonnets may be dedicated)." [Emphasis added.]

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Seriously, how can you not be excited about this film?


The film boasts a stellar cast: Rhys Ifans as de Vere and Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth, with Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance in supporting roles. As a dyed-in-the-wool Shakespeare nerd (I once spent a year studyingat the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London, where we considered, in somefetishistic detail, things like theatrical ticket prices in the 17 th century and how Elizabethan undergarments worked) I'm particularly excited for Anonymous . I love, for example, the trailer'swinky play on Ben Jonson's famous line that Shakespeare was the " soul of the age ,"and the aerial shots of crowded, stinking, Renaissance London. It seems to methat Emmerich's campy, overheated touch Dana referred to the "balls-outloopiness" of the project is the right tone to take with the authorship "conspiracy,"a topic that inspires passion and mockery in equal measure. Plus, there are goingto be explosions.

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Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.