Speed Racer and Hamlet: Go, Emile Hirsch, go!
Overture Films has announced that it is developing a modern-day adaptation of Hamlet to be directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Twilight) and starring Hirsch as the guy who, as Laurence Olivier once memorably put it, "could not make up his mind."
When I interviewed Emile Hirsch in 2007 in connection with the release of Into the Wild, he struck me as surprisingly, rather endearingly awkward. At 22, he was clearly not fully comfortable with the interview tour; he fiddled with colored pencils during the interview and seemed to alternate between intense and shy. In short, he seemed like your typical intelligent 22-year-old, albeit one with genuine acting talent. That talent got muffled in the noisy awful Speed Racer but was on display again in a smaller role in Milk.
Hardwicke worked with Hirsch on Lords of Dogtown, and he approached her about Hamlet. Says she in a press release: “I had a great time working with Emile on Lords of Dogtown, so when he suggested Hamlet, I was intrigued. We read the play aloud and when I heard Emile speaking Shakespeare's amazing words, I was flooded with images. We edited the play tightly, making the words extremely accessible. In our version, we're working hard to make Hamlet a thrilling cinematic experience—the violent, intense, and romantic scenes that happen ‘off-stage’ in the play will be shown in vivid detail.” Ooh, we get to see Hamlet work his mad moody flirting skills on Ophelia before she goes bonkers! Dude.
Hamlet is one of the Everests of acting, at least in Shakespeare's version. His lines alone are longer than some plays, and he careens from emotion to emotion. And of course, he's one of the most written-about characters in the history of literature, so people come to any production with some baggage.
But having met Hirsch and seen him act now in a range of roles, I can see him as some sort of Hamlet. I don't know how well he'll carry Shakespeare's language (Hamlet has some of the weirdest long, complex suspended metaphors to deliver), but this modern adaptation will be trimmed and contemporized by Ron Nyswaner (who wrote Philadelphia). Just so long as they don't have him carrying an iPod and pondering "To, you know, keep on living…or to snuff it." Seriously, though, Hirsch's youthful energy and awkwardness should work well for the role: I got the sense that he could play inner turmoil of epic dimensions if given the chance. So, count me intrigued. Overture is hoping to have a script set in a few months and to start shooting shortly therafter. So, expect it in Oscar season 2010.