Friday, 30 June 2017

The big names lining up for a blockbuster King Lear: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson and Jim Broadbent among stellar cast for BBC2 adaptation of Shakespeare's play. Not OT.

Anthony Hopkins will play Shakespeare's King Lear as an 'English Stalin' in a BBC TV film that will also feature powerhouse actresses Emma Thompson, Emily Watson and Florence Pugh as his daughters.

Jim Broadbent and Jim Carter will play Lear's war ministers Gloucester and Kent in the BBC2 film, to be directed by theatre and film giant Richard Eyre.

Andrew Scott, who is busy playing the Bard's mixed-up Dane in the Almeida's production of Hamlet at the Harold Pinter Theatre, will be Edgar — who becomes Lear's secret protector. Christopher Eccleston will play Oswald.

It's as formidable as the company Eyre (a former artistic chief of the National Theatre, who's equally at home behind the camera) assembled when he filmed 2015's The Dresser for the BBC with Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Emily Watson, Sarah Lancashire and Vanessa Kirby.

Hopkins played 'Sir', a veteran thespian who carries on delivering his Lear as Luftwaffe bombs rain on the house. His remarkable performances during those excerpts started people thinking about the possibility of a full-scale Lear.

The deals are still being finalised, but Oscar-winning Thompson, so good in forthcoming Netflix film The Meyerowitz Stories, is to play Goneril. Watson, soon to be seen in Dominic Cooke's film of On Chesil Beach, will play Regan. And the fast- rising Pugh (fiercely fine in the film Lady Macbeth) will be Cordelia.

I was on the set of The Dresser at Ealing Studios when Carter, who was filming Downton Abbey on the sound stage next door, came visiting and joked that he'd like to be offered a part in Eyre's next project. And now he has.

Eyre's adaptation of Lear is a contemporary one, set in 'the fictional present', with the tyrannical Lear using the Tower of London as the base for his military dictatorship. In his tunic, buttoned to the neck, the old king is likened to an 'English Stalin'.

Colin Callender and Sonia Friedman, who produced The Dresser, are also involved.

Rehearsals start in September, and filming in October. Lear is part of a series of TV versions of stage classics, starring major names.

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