The last directors to really leave their stamp on William Shakespeare's work and get away with it were Sir Kenneth Brannagh and Baz Luhrman. (An argument could be made for Ralph Fiennes’s Coriolanus, but alas not enough people have seen it yet to really discuss it in full.) If the new photos from Justin Kurtzel’s adaptation of Macbeth are any indication, we might be seeing another name added to that luminary list.
The works of Shakespeare are adapted about as often and as frequently as directors have picked up young adult franchises in the past decade or so. Before Edward Cullen was the cover boy for teenage angst, young prince Hamlet wore the crown for several decades prior. In fact, the only real difference besides Shakespeare and YA adaptations (besides the quality of the source material) is that it’s even more disastrous if someone manages to screw up the translation from page to screen. (Does anyone else remember Love’s Labours Lost? Maybe Ethan Hawke or Mel Gibson’s Hamlet?)
Of course, a director is usually only as good as the actors they’re using, which is why the photos from The Daily Mail’s story on Kurtzel's Macbeth production give us more of a reason to anticipate this latest version. Michael Fassbender is starring as the reluctant murderer Macbeth, with Marion Cotillard as his more motivated other half. Fassbender was interviewed by The Daily Mail’s columnist, Baz Bamigboye, and judging by some of his remarks there’s a new dimension of understanding to the classic character:
"He’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It makes total sense, when you think about it. Justin [Kurzel] set the seed of the idea in my head."
Fassbender further articulated that such a disorder was:
"…probably more horrific in Macbeth’s days, when they were killing with their bare hands, and driving a blade through bodies."
Throw in the fact that he and his wife are still mourning the loss of their child, and you’ve got a couple that has the perfect motive to strike down a king. All of the characters (save for Lady MacBeth) will be speaking with authentic Scottish accents, with an authentic period setting and a more visceral/Braveheart look to the face painted warriors. Truth be told, it’s way early to tell how well this is going to turn out, but just evaluating the two photos and the interview with Fassbender is enough to make classic literature fans excited.
With roles in plenty of other literary adaptations, Shakespeare seems to be the last landmark for Michael Fassbender to conquer… unless they decide to cast him as Professor Snape in the "destined to happen 20 years from now" BBC Miniseries of Harry Potter. For now though, Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth opens in the UK early 2015, with release dates in the U.S. and other territories still up in the air.