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
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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