Articles on the Postponing of the Shakespeare Films
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Ken's Labour's Lost On The Bard

The Daily Express, 30 January 2001
by John McEntee

Kenneth Branagh's grand £30 million schele to make a trio of new-look Shakespearean films has hit the buffers. Branagh, I gather, has been forced to put on ice his plans to film two more of the Bard's plays following the UK box office flop of last year's critically-panned 1930s-musical version of Love's Labour's Lost, starring Alicia Silverstone and Natascah McElhone.

His hopes of making a modern-day Macbeth set in Manhattan with the lead character a media mogul like Rupert Murdoch and As You Like It set in modern-day Japan, might not be realised for another 15 years, an aide admits.

Ken, 40, the former husband of Emma Thompson, set up the now dormant Shakespeare Film Company in 1998 to make three films, each with an estimated £10 million budget.

Love's Labour's Lost cost £8 million but it took less than £350,000 in the UK, making it one of the biggest box office flops of 2000. Branagh is currently filming a £27 million drama about explorer Sir Ernerst Shackleton which he is expected to follow-up with more acting-only roles.

Tamar Thomas, Branagh's spokesperson, insists he still intends to make the two remaining Shakespeare films - but cannot say when.

She says: 'To be honest, the next one could end up being made in 15 years. It really depends on how Kenneth feels.

"He has a number of things in the pipeline. These do not include plans for a Shakespeare film."

But she insisted that the failure of Love's Labour's Lost would not affect "in the slightest" his plans. His previous ventures, such as Henry V, were phenomenally successful but Emma Cochrane, editor of Empire film magazine, says: "There have simply been too many Shakespearean films".

"I suspect Branagh will be wanting to keep a lower profile and concentrate on his acting for now".

Is this a slump we see before us? Ken calls off new Shakespeare film

The Independent, 31 January 2001
By David Lister, Media and Culture Editor

Kenneth Branagh, Britain's foremost interpreter of Shakespeare on film, has put back plans for two new Shakespeare movies, signalling that the Bard movie boom might be over. Branagh was to film two radical versions of Macbeth and As You Like It.

The first would have had the Scottish king as a Wall Street broker, and the second was to have been set in a Japanese tea garden. The films had been eagerly awaited by fans of Branagh, whose movie versions of Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing were widely acclaimed.

But his last Shakespeare film Love's Labour's Lost, as a Thirties style song-and-dance movie, was a box office flop last year. It cost pounds 8.5m to make, but took only pounds 527,000 at the box office. It was to be the first of atrio of radical interpretations of Shakespeare plays on screen. A spokesman for Branagh said yesterday: "Love's Labour's Lost was a brave attempt to do something different, and the audience just didn't get it. I think probably he is not hurrying to make the other two Shakespeare movies because he is concentrating on other things. These things go in cycles."

Branagh is thought unlikely to return to the Shakespeare projects for several years. He is now filming a pounds 27m drama about the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton which he is expected to follow up with more acting-only roles.

A close friend said yesterday: "Ken has been remarking that he might stop directing and acting in the same movies. It is too exhausting."

Love's Labour's Lost, which Branagh directed and in which he starred alongside Alicia Silverstone and Natascha McElhone, came hot on the heels of the globally popular updated Romeo and Juliet, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and Shakespeare in Love, with Gwyneth Paltrow. The latter was not, strictly speaking, a Shakespeare movie, though more than two-thirds of the text was from Shakespeare.

Emma Cochrane, editor of the film magazine Empire, said yesterday: "There certainly doesn't seem to be a demand for Shakespeare movies at the moment. The release of Hamlet with Ethan Hawke hasn't really registered.

"And O, an American version of Othello on a basketball court with lots of teen stars, isn't even going to get a release over here. The trend for updating Shakespeare for the teen market seems to be over. I would not anticipate more films on those lines in the near future."

Considerable hopes were also held for Titus, an adaptation of Titus Andronicus starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and directed by Julie Taymor, who directed The Lion King on stage. But that too has failed to set the box office alight. Yet while the Shakespeare movie craze is on the wane, there is renewed interest for Shakespeare on stage. Ticket sales for the Royal Shakespeare Company's staging of the history plays exceeded all expectations. The productions of the three parts of Henry VI in Stratford-upon-Avon have sold out.

Love's Labour's Lost
Director: Kenneth Branagh, 2000
Budget: pounds 8.5m UK box office: pounds 527,000
A setback for Branagh. The song-and-dance experiment did not wow audiences as he had hoped. Reviews and audience figures were disappointing

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Director: Adrian Noble, 1996
Budget: pounds 2.5m
UK box office: pounds 25,000
Not everything that works on stage works on screen. Noble's Dream was a triumph in the theatre; a critical disaster in the cinema

Director: Kenneth Branagh, 1997
Budget: $18m UK box office: pounds 5.5m
Four hours long, it still did respectable business at the box office, Julie Christie's role as Queen Gertrude winning particular praise

Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet
Director: Baz Luhrmann, 1997
Budget: $14.5m UK box office: pounds 7.4m
Set in Los Angeles with a sexy young cast and a rock music soundtrack, this entranced young audiences across the world

Much Ado About Nothing
Director: Kenneth Branagh, 1993
Budget: $8m UK Box office: pounds 5.5m
Made in Italy with an Anglo-American cast, it did well and cemented Branagh's reputation as Mr Shakespeare on film

In Brief : Love's Labours flop turns Branagh off Shakespeare

The Guardian, 1 February 2001

One of history's great movie romances could well be nearing an end with the news that William Shakespeare and blushing Kenneth Branagh are kaput… at least for now. Apparently hurt by the poor critical and commercial response to his last Shakespeare adaptation, Love's Labours Lost, Branagh has decided to put the Bard on the back burner and mothball two other putative projects. A spokesman for the actor-director yesterday told the Independent newspaper that: "Love's Labours Lost was a brave attempt to do something different and the audience just didn't get it. I think probably he is not hurrying to make the other two Shakespeare movies because he is concentrating on other things." Love's Labours Lost re-framed the Bard's romance as a musical in jolly-hockeysticks pre-war Britain. According to insiders Branagh had (no joke) been planning a Macbeth set on Wall Street and As You Like It in a Japanese tea garden. Both are now languishing on the pending pile.

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