Posted on Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 by Russ Fischer
Before he gets around to making Foundation, and consequently cutting out the hearts of Isaac Asimov fans with a rusty butter knife, Roland Emmerich is crafting a film called Anonymous. The idea behind the project is the oft-scorned theory that the works of William Shakespeare were actually written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.
We’ve known the cast, which includes Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis, Vanessa Redgrave and Edward Hogg, but haven’t known much about the film. Now an article says Emmerich will “be doing with literary conspiracy theories in Anonymous what he did with world monuments in 2012: taking really big famous ones and slamming them into each other.” Dammit, now I want to see this.
Slate did a set visit and has a nice piece on the film. You may need to read no more than the assertion that Anonymous seems likely to be “a certifiably loony fantasia built on an epic scale.”
If you do need to read more, here’s the Cliff Notes version of what we’ll find in the film: not only did de Vere write Shakespeare’s works. According to this take, he was also the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I, with whom began an affair as adult. (He, at least, was unaware of their relationship.) With her, de Vere had a son (brother), who became the third Earl of Southampton, to whom many scholars believe Shakespeare’s sonnets are dedicated.
Well, scholars believe the sonnets are dedicated to this Earl, but not that he was his father’s brother. Ahem. Suddenly, the idea of Ifans as de Vere and Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I is a lot more interesting.
Screenwriter John Orloff says he’s not trying to argue the case for the de Vere theory, and that his real concern is ” the creative spirit and the power of the word.”
Emmerich has been similarly demure about the film in the past, saying:
It’s an historical thriller because it’s about who will succeed Queen Elizabeth and the struggle of the people who want to have a hand in it. It’s the Tudors on one side and the Cecils on the other, and in between [the two] is the Queen. Through that story we tell how the plays written by the Earl of Oxford ended up labelled ‘William Shakespeare.’
I’m so glad he may have something a lot more ridiculous than that in mind.