Could ‘Coriolanus’ Be the Next ‘The King’s Speech’?

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On Monday February 14, Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut, Coriolanus, a modern day interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, will have its world premiere at the prestigious Berlinale (the Berlin Int’l Film Festival.)

There has already been considerable industry buzz for this film. The expectations for the first turn behind the lens of an actor of Fiennes’ caliber are high, even if it is Shakespeare, and indeed it is the only British film in competition for a coveted Golden Bear.

It is also scheduled to open the 39th Annual Belgrade Film Fest at the end of February. (The movie was filmed in Belgrade and the surrounding area in April and May of 2010.) There are rumors circulating that Fiennes also plans to bring it to Cannes in May 2011.

In addition, there has now been a report that the Weinstein Company is interested in distributing the film.  I can’t help but think that, if true, this is not just very good news, but another vote of confidence in the film. 

The Weinstein name on a movie is something of a stamp of approval or legitimacy. It has a certain cachet within the industry. Weinstein backed films tend to be of a certain class or caliber and historically, they tend to be the types of films that garner awards attention. 

Just look at a partial list from the last two years (with a smattering of their awards & nominations:)

 

·  The Reader (2008) *Best Actress Kate Winslet* (co-starring Ralph Fiennes)

·  Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)*multiple Guild and Critics Association awards nominations*

 ·  Inglourious Basterds (2009, co production with Universal Pictures and A Band Apart) *Best Supporting Actor Christoph Waltz*

·  A Single Man (2009) *Best Actor nomination Colin Firth*

·  Nine (2009)*nominated for 4 Oscars including Best Supporting Actress Penelope Cruz*

·  Le Concert (2010) *nominated for Golden Globe Best Foreign Language Film, nominated for 6 Cesar Awards incl. wins for Music & Sound*

·  The Tillman Story (2010)*won Sundance Film Festival Jury Prize*

·  Nowhere Boy (2010)*nominated for 4 BAFTAs and 5 British Independent Film Awards incl. a win for Best Supporting Actress*

·  The King’s Speech (2010) *most nominated film of this year’s Academy Awards*

·  Blue Valentine (2010)*Best Actress nomination Michelle Williams*

·  The Company Men (2011)
 
Not only have all of the films listed been nominated for awards, but most are small little art-house movies that without the backing of a distributor with the clout of the Weinsteins, or perhaps even Sony Pictures Classics, behind them, they probably could have gone straight to dvd without a theatrical release.

Whatever else can be said of the Weinsteins, Harvey in particular, they do know how to market a film.  This year’s current top contender for the Oscar for Best Picture of the year, The King’s Speech, is a case in point. While it helps that the movie is just that good, without the backing of a company that knew what to do with it, it could easily have languished under the radar. Instead, with an aggressive campaign that created a demand for the film before it was widely released, including a media blitz that embraced the burgeoning bloggisphere and made good use of new social media outlets (ironic given its chief competition for the year’s big awards), it is on track to become one of the most successful independent films in history and has made back its modest budget many times over. Now, of course, they have all of those awards and nominations to use to keep it in the public eye until the big dance on February 27th.

This is what I want for Coriolanus. 

While Mr. Fiennes is accustomed to attracting attention for his acting prowess, as is a majority of the rest of the ensemble that comprises his cast, it would certainly be a grand achievement if he were to earn it for a film he directed as well.  He has earned the respect of his peers and the industry in which he toils (and they appear poised to embrace his next efforts as well.)

This is what I want it for Gerard Butler.

Some really impressive promo shots from this film have just been released and I wanted both an excuse to post them and to use them as an excuse to talk about the film.

I’ve read the play (although it has been many years since I have done so.) It is a story filled with passion and violence and politics and themes like ambition and familial devotion, friendship, and betrayal. While some may instantly grimace at the idea of sitting through a filmed version of a Shakespearian tragedy (and I fear some of those people will never be able to open their minds to the possibility,) there are parallels to be found in current world politics and if done right, will resonate with a modern viewer.

Judging from the stills alone, this film will showcase the gravitas that Ralph Fiennes possesses in spades. I was hoping Mr. Fiennes would be able to impart some of that to his co-star, an actor he hand-picked based on the qualities he exhibited in a little movie called ‘300.’  Gerard Butler as King Leonidas delivered a performance with a stillness that suggested power and strength beyond the 8-pack abs, qualities that Fiennes wanted for Coriolanus’ arch enemy, Tullus Aufidius.  Judging from the stills alone, he seems to have gotten what he asked for.

It is my hope that this film will not only serve to prove that Ralph Fiennes has successfully joined the ranks of a mere handful of actors who have transitioned from in front of the camera to behind it and back again, but also to prove what a small but vociferous bunch of us have known for a long time, that Gerard Butler is a very talented actor.  More talented than his recent foray into romantic comedy and action adventure would have indicated; the talent that seemed evident in much of his earliest work and seemed to want to break out of the constraints of a caged serial killer.

It is my hope that Coriolanus will be Butler’s entrée to the real A-list, the small list of actors like the Colin Firths and the Ralph Fiennes of the world who are offered the meaty dramatic parts that showcase and challenge their talents, not just their abs or their gorgeous mugs.

It is my hope that filmgoers will be able to get past their prejudices against watching Shakespeare on film, let alone a film by an actor who thinks he can direct and yes, even get beyond their prejudices against Gerard Butler as a serious and talented actor long enough to just watch the damn movie.





Forget it’s Shakespeare, forget it’s Gerard Butler, forget everything you think you know… and let his face tell you the story

*Immeasurable thanks, as always, to my editor, Connie!

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5 responses to “Could ‘Coriolanus’ Be the Next ‘The King’s Speech’?

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