Ethan Hawke was updating Shakespeare before it was cool. His updated Hamlet with director Michael Almereyda brought together a fabulous cast and a premise that some believe worked brilliantly, while others found a bit … pretentious. Now Hawke and Almereyda are together again, this time updating a lesser known Shakespearean play for our viewing pleasure.
Hawke and Almereyda are taking on Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. For those of you who missed that play in high school, Cymbeline involves Celtic and Roman nobility, based on the legend of the British monarch Cunobelinus. It’s a romantic tragedy, involving love and betrayal, murderous queens, gallant courtiers, and the warring factions within ancient Britain. It all begins with the secret marriage of King Cymbeline’s daughter Imogen to Posthumus Leonatus, an act which infuriates the King and results in Posthumus’s banishment. Plots, conspiracies, and tests of love ensue, with predictably Shakespearean results. Largely considered a minor Shakespeare play, it has its points for an adaptation: the most obvious being that very few people have actually read or seen it.
Hawke and Almereyda are updating the story to involve dirty cops and a biker gang, which would be surprising if one did not consider that they managed to make Hamlet into a slacker filmmaker wandering around a video store in New York City. Stranger things have happened.
There’s no word yet on casting for Cymbeline, or even what part Hawke will take on. The obvious answer is Cymbeline himself, but there are several villains and at least one gallant hero in play here. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Hawke will want the part of Posthumus. Just a guess.
What do you think of the prospects for Cymbeline? Can Hawke manage to update ancient Britain to modern-day biker gangs, or is this the worst idea ever? Let us know in the comments.