bill-swift - April 3, 2012
There are actors that should simply not do Shakespeare. It's not easy. Besides the high falutin Elizabethan English, the characters are complicated and nuanced. I myself have put on tights- not a pretty site - and tried to do the Bard justice. There are great actors, of course, that are fantastic at doing Shakespeare. I saw a "Hamlet" with Kevin Kline that was amazing. Kenneth Branagh made a lot of money in the early 90's making movie versions of Willy Shakes' plays. But some actors should...just stay away. Here are the top five weirdest Shakespeare casting decisions.
Keanu Reeves in "Much Ado About Nothing"
Keanu Reeves is a bad actor. He has one facial expression: "Whoa, dude". This is fine if you are one half of Wyld Stallyns or fighting agents in "The Matrix", but not for Shakespeare. In Kenneth Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing", Keanu plays Don John. He's the prince's brother and the villain of the piece. Let's put aside for a second that his brother is played by Denzel Washington. Keanu just doesn't have it in him to play a villain. Especially if that villain has to be a conniving snake. The bad guy is usually smarter and craftier than the good guy. The only thing Keanu is craftier than is bar of soap. Maybe.
Ethan Hawke in "Hamlet"
Hamlet has been called the most complex character in all of English literature. So, naturally you cast someone who is able to find the subtleties in the role of the melancholy Dane. Ethan Hawke is not that guy. If you need a guy to stand on a desk and say, "Oh Captain, my Captain" to Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke is fine. But Hamlet? Hawke recites the famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy while he is debating on which video to rent at Blockbuster. You aren't supposed to feel relieved when Hamlet dies at the end of the play. I was just glad that I didn't have to hear his whiny voice anymore.
Mel Gibson also in "Hamlet"
Before Mel Gibson became a professional drunken anti-Semite, he was one of Hollywood's biggest actors. His turn as Riggs in "Lethal Weapon" forever set the paradigm for the loose cannon cop. "Mad Max" and "The Road Warrior" are the greatest post-apocalyptic films of all time. But Hamlet? His Danish prince is just kind of a whiny little bitch. You don't really see the conflict over whether he will kill Claudius. Instead, Gibson speaks all of his lines so fast he runs out of breath. His only conflict was probably if he'd have bourbon or whiskey for lunch.
Sam Worthington in "Macbeth"
I've written before about how Sam Worthington is a CGI character that lives on James Cameron's flash drive. But let's pretend for a moment that he is a flesh and blood human. He is a terrible actor. He's not even good enough to convincingly play Perseus in "Clash of the Titans" or a blue cat alien in "Avatar". If he's not good enough to speak the trite dialogue in those two movies, what made anyone think that he could do "Macbeth"? It's an Australian film set in the gangster underworld and hasn't been seen much in the U.S. If you do see it, it will make you miss the Reeves' acting ability.
Al Pacino in "Merchant of Venice"
Al Pacino was once one of our greatest actors. "The Godfather I and II", "Scarface", and "Dog Day Afternoon" showed some real acting chops. Then, in the early 90's, something happened to Pacino. He became a parody of himself. This happened about the time they gave him an Oscar for "Scent of a Woman". Since then his acting has consisted of yelling "Hoo-Haa". This is how he plays Shylock in "Merchant of Venice". Shylock is a tortured character that finally breaks after years of suffering antisemitism in 16th century Venice. Pacino recites the "Hath not a Jew eyes..." speech as if he was yelling at a PA for getting him the wrong type of fizzy water. Screaming does not equal acting.
Article By Jack Tomas
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