Political intrigue, incestuous love affair with a royal, theatre and a secret identity get tangled in Anonymous. Set against the backdrop of Elizabethan England, the film explores Shakespeare's identity and the true authorship of his works.
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Vanessa Redgrave as Elizabeth I of England. Redgrave commented that "It's very interesting, the fractures, in this extraordinary creature.... I only hope that I've been able to respond to Roland in this script sufficiently to be able to just give a little glimpse of this fracturing, this black hole, with shafts of brief sunlight."
Rhys Ifans as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford / "William Shake-speare"
Joely Richardson as young Princess Elizabeth
David Thewlis as William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, longtime adviser to Queen Elizabeth. De Vere came to live in his household as a ward of the Queen at age 12 and became Burghley's son-in-law at age 21. Burghley is thought to have inspired the character Polonius.
Xavier Samuel as Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, Shake-speare dedicatee and the focus of his sonnets; prospective suitor to Cecil's granddaughter Elizabeth de Vere
Screenwriter John Orloff had penned the script back in the late 1990s, but it was shelved after Shakespeare in Love came out in 1998. It was almost greenlit as "The Soul of the Age" for a 2005 release, with a budget of $30 to $35 million. However, the financing proved to be "a risky undertaking," director Roland Emmerich told Screen Daily at the time.
In a November 2009 interview, Emmerich said of the film:
[F]or me there was an incredible script that I bought eight years ago. It was [initially] called Soul of the Age which pretty much is the heart of the movie still. It's three characters. It's like Ben Jonson, who was a playwright then. William Shakespeare who was an actor. It's like the 17th Earl of Oxford who is the true author of all these plays. We see how, through these three people, it happens that all of these plays get credited to Shakespeare. I kind of found it as too much like Amadeus to me. It was about jealousy, about genius against end, so I proposed to make this a movie about political things, which is about succession. Succession, the monarchy, was absolute monarchy, and the most important political thing was who would be the next King. Then we incorporated that idea into that story line. It has all the elements of a Shakespeare play. It's about Kings, Queens, and Princes. It's about illegitimate children, it's about incest, it's about all of these elements which Shakespeare plays have. And it's overall a tragedy. That was the way and I'm really excited to make this movie.
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