Over the last few days, fans of Shakespeare, Tom Hiddleston, and Damian Lewis may have heard something exciting.
It started at a special screening of the Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award-winning Call Me By Your Name in Toronto. The screening included a Q & A with veteran screenwriter and director James Ivory, recipient of said Academy Award. During the Q & A James Ivory happened to mention that he has a “new Richard II and a new Bolingbroke. And the new Richard is Tom Hiddleston, and the new Bolingbroke is Damian Lewis. So let’s hope that it all comes about.”
This news filtered out from a Tumblr post showing a clip and transcription from the Q & A session, and fans picked up on the cast information with interest.
So does this mean we are about to get a new Richard II?
The answer is possibly not what the various groups of fans really want to hear. Yes, a screenplay was put together by Academy Award winner Chris Terrio (Argo). And yes, Tom Hiddleston is lined up as Richard II and Damian Lewis as Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV.
But the idea has been buzzing around since the early 1990s, with Kenneth Branagh and Daniel Day-Lewis in those roles. That one fell through when Branagh, Ivory’s choice for Bolingbroke, stated he wanted to play Richard II, not Bolingbroke.
Fast forward to 2012, when Ivory revealed that he’d decided he wanted the film to be a beautiful medieval portrait shot in 3D. Yes, 3D. Ivory said in a long-ago interview with CBC News that he thought 3D had great potential.
“I think if you’re going to do something set in the 14th century, in the period, in 3D, it will be like something from Mars practically, I think. It will be strange and effective.”
In 2015, the same quote appeared on shakespeareflix.net.
The story has resurfaced on occasion since then, with Ivory possibly hoping to keep it in the public’s consciousness in the hope it will jog investors along. But in 2016, Ivory said that financing for the project had not been forthcoming. He felt potential investors are wary of putting money into an extravagant Shakespeare project, even with the cinema-goer attractions of his new cast choices Hiddleston and Lewis.
In 2017 in a Guardian interview, Ivory reiterated the “fear of the Bard” that potential investors appear to suffer from. While there has been enthusiasm for Chris Terrio’s screenplay, investors don’t feel there is a return to be made from such a venture.
Unfortunately for fans, the situation doesn’t appear to have changed.
The BBC‘s two multi-award-winning Hollow Crown TV series’ covered Shakespeare’s ‘Henriad’ – Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V parts I and II, Henry VI and Richard III – and gained massive critical success. Hiddleston took the role of Prince Hal/Henry V to critical acclaim and has quite a few other major Shakespeare roles on his resume. Despite that, financiers are still leery of the risk. Shakespeare’s works do not usually do big business at the cinema box office.
So there we have it – James Ivory is still up for making Richard II, Tom Hiddleston and Damian Lewis are still his choices for Richard and Bolingbroke. It just needs the financiers to get over their fear of the Bard, and we could all be sat comfortably in the cinemas watching a sumptuous, 3D medieval world. In James Ivory’s words, let’s hope that it all comes about.
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