WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
About The Production
"At the beginning I just had an image of this fat little Puck riding through the Tuscan countryside on the back of a turtle," says director Michael Hoffman
"At the beginning I just had an image
of this fat little Puck riding through the Tuscan countryside
on the back of a turtle," says director Michael Hoffman.
"The rest of the film sort of spun out from that."
Actually, the inspiration for Hoffman's desire to write his screen
adaptation of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
came from a performance of the play, in which he played Lysander.
This production was staged with other dissidents from his university
theater department in Boise, Idaho. A few years later, while studying
theater at Oxford, he directed another production of the play
that led to his first offer to direct a film.
Today, the company Hoffman and his friends started in Boise is
building a $3 million theater, and he has just completed his eighth
film. Little wonder that it should be an adaptation of "A
Midsummer Night's Dream." "I've always felt there was
a blessing for me in this play," he says.
Producer Leslie Urdang is the founder of New York Stage and Film,
a distinguished Manhattan production and workshop center where
many members of the cast -- Calista Flockhart, David Strathairn,
Roger Rees, Bill Irwin and Sam Rockwell -- have performed. As
a child, Urdang herself danced the role of a fairy in the 1966
film of George Ballanchine's ballet based on the play. Urdang
observes that "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a perennial
favorite for school productions, is the one Shakespeare play everyone
seems to know.
"Everyone you talk to seems to have played a character in
it," she says, "whether it's an actor or your dentist
who did it at kindergarten or summer camp. It's the one you can
bring our kids to -- in some ways it's a lot like 'The Wizard
When Hoffman and Urdang started talking about filming "A
Midsummer Night's Dream" more than two years ago, they discovered
that they had similar casting ideas. Urdang felt Michelle Pfeiffer
and Kevin Kline would be ideal for the film version, while Hoffman
had been talking to Kline since they worked together on "Soapdish."
After directing Pfeiffer opposite George Clooney in "One
Fine Day," Hoffman told Urdang that he agreed with her. "Who
could be better than Michelle Pfeiffer," he says, "with
her acting talent and extraordinarily ethereal beauty, to play
the Queen of the Fairies?" Six weeks later he came back with
Shakespeare had originally set his story in an English version
of ancient Greece where Elizabethan spectators would have felt
right at home. Looking for a setting closer in time for a contemporary
audience, while keeping the highly formal aristocratic culture
in which it takes place, Hoffman decided to transport the story
to Tuscany, a part of Italy he knows well, at the turn of the
"It's the beginning of the end of the high collars and bustles,
a certain loosening up of the culture," says Urdang. "The
bicycle, which plays a part in Michael's script, was a relatively
recent invention which also brought a new kind of freedom to travel
without being shut up in a coach."
"Besides that, the setting is Italy, where the civilized
culture is smack up against a passion for food, the love of the
countryside, and of all the more natural elements of the world,"
"So when we go into the forest, all the clothes come off,"
Anna Friel sums up<
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