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SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE

About The Production
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE began as a simple question

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE began as a simple question. Writer and producer Marc Norman's son, who was studying Elizabethan Drama in school, was talking with his father about Shakespeare when Norman began to wonder just what inspired the young bard to write "Romeo and Juliet." After all, it seems a story that could only have been penned by someone who had himself felt the dangerous lure of romantic love.

"With 'Romeo and Juliet' Shakespeare really finds his voice," notes Norman. "What is extraordinary about 'Romeo and Juliet' is that it mixes genres - it begins as a love story and comedy, but then shifts gears, becoming a full blown tragedy which was an extremely radical idea in its day. I began wondering what the catalyst might have been that moved his imagination so strongly and that's where the idea for a love story began."

Norman came up with the idea of Shakespeare falling in love with one of his actors, a woman who pretends to be a boy in order to appear on stage. He explains: "Because Shakespeare was already married, then by its very nature the love affair would seem to be doomed, so that led to all the mirroring and parallels with 'Romeo and Juliet."'

After the concept was pitched successfully to Universal by Marc Norman and celebrated director Edward Zwick, the screenplay took shape by the hand of Norman. Later, renowned playwright Tom Stoppard was brought on board to add his own magical touch. In his earlier work "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," drama unfolds between two minor character in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," so Stoppard was no stranger to mixing Shakespeare's writing with his own playful imagination.

"I wondered whether, after "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern," if it was a bad idea for me to return to this theme," Stoppard admits. "However once I got to work I got carried away with the ideas and the possibilities." Taking Marc Norman's inspired screenplay, Stoppard then "played around with a lot of ideas and added a few characters, including bringing in Christopher Marlowe." "The more I did," he says, "the more involved I got and the more enjoyable it became."

The final script was delivered in a delightfully light-hearted and modern style - and at the same time it was packed with witty references to Shakespeare's work. When director John Madden read it, he felt that it had "one foot in the 16th century and one in the 20th century." Madden was particularly drawn to the film's sometimes bawdy, often deliciously pointed humor. "The first thing I got out of the script was its sense of fun; it is full of surprises, topping one surprise with another," he says. "There is something terribly attractive about taking this great world figure and dealing with him mischievously and playfully, but without debunking him. One of the script's greatest assets is that it has brilliant dialogue which is irresistibly clever yet accessible and believable - quite a unique combo."

Producer David Parfitt summarizes the enthusiasm the script elicited in everyone who came into contact with it during development: "Getting a script as good as this, one which is so beautifully written is very rare. So I didn't hesitate, I said yes straight away."

The filmmakers found similar reaction from potential cast. One of the biggest early challenges was finding two actors with the chemistry and comedic abilities to carry the two leading roles - star-struck lovers with a tendency to get their wires crossed. John Madden was acut

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