Film

Macbeth trailer, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard bring new life to this classic tale

The Weinstein Company has released the first trailer for “Macbeth,” a new film-adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tale. The studio describes MACBETH as the story “of a fearless warrior and inspiring leader brought low by ambition and desire.”

The studio went on to describe the film calling it, “A thrilling interpretation of the dramatic realities of the times and a reimagining of what wartime must have been like for one of Shakespeare’s most famous and compelling characters, a story of all-consuming passion and ambition, set in war torn Scottish landscape.”

MACBETH is directed by Justin Kurzel (Snowtown) and stars Academy-Award nominee Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave) and Academy-Award winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose). The film also stars Paddy Considine (The Bourne Ultimatum), David Thewlis (the Harry Potter series), Sean Harris (Prometheus), Jack Reynor (What Richard Did) and Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby).

Academy Award winners Iain Canning and Emile Sherman of See-Saw Films (Shame, Tracks, Mr Holmes) produce with Laura Hastings-Smith (Hunger). See-Saw developed the project alongside Film4.STUDIOCANAL majority financed with Film4.

The film’s Director of photography was Adam Arkapaw (True Detective, Snowtown) the production designer was Fiona Crombie (Snowtown, Top of the Lake). The Costumes were designed by Academy Award winner Jacqueline Durran (Atonement, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and the make-up and hair designer was Academy-Award winner Jenny Shircore (The Invisible Woman, My Week With Marilyn).

The screenplay was written by Jacob Koskoff & Todd Louiso and Michael Lesslie.

The tragic tale of a Scottish general haunted by his own ambition, and a prophecy that he will one day become King of Scotland, has long fascinated actors, directors and audiences, and on the big screen has led to adaptations by directors from Orson Welles to Roman Polanski.

But with a new generation of British actors commanding the stage, as well as screens big and small, producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman of See-Saw Films felt the time was right for a new approach to Macbeth. “You’ve got actors such as Tom Hiddleston and Jude Law playing the leads in Shakespeare plays,” notes Canning.

“And I think it’s interesting to see this new wave come in and reinterpret the plays – discovering again what they mean.”
The timing was right from a topical point of view too, with greed, and its effects, on the agenda more than ever before. Notes Jack Reynor, who plays Malcolm: “Greed is a really terrible thing that can corrupt on a monumental scale, and it can destroy people’s lives. So the story of Macbeth is particularly poignant when you take into account the economic climate of the past few years.”

The filmmakers felt that the globalised nature of the world today offered an opportunity to increase the scope of the story on the big screen and give Macbeth a modern feel. “What I think has been very strong in this adaptation is the sense of community and the wider world that exists around these characters,” Canning notes. “We’ve expanded the idea that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth exist within a world, that they were a product of it and that their actions affected it. We’re exploring the story from a much more modern, cinematic place.”

Preserving Shakespeare’s language was always key for the filmmakers. “You’d end up making a very different film if you’re not using the rules of the verse and dialogue,” Canning notes. “Our challenge was to cut the play in the right ways, and bring together the right filmmaking team so that people would forget they were listening to something slightly unusual or classical.”

“We approached it with simplicity,” says Michael Fassbender, cast in the role of Macbeth. “We never tried to work against the verse or just disregard it, but we kept things simple and tangible, and the idea Justin had from the beginning was to be a lot more intimate with the text than we’ve seen before, but always truthful. As with any script, you don’t set out to sabotage this tremendous writing but you work with it and ground yourself within it.”

Continues director Justin Kurzel: “You’re bringing the verse into the cinema, and there’s something about doing it to another person one-on-one as opposed to a live audience, and I think something happens when you have another actor opposite you and the camera is so close and intimate. You forget about projection and instead play to the intimacy.”

“We had to really work at it because Shakespeare can be hard to understand, even for English people,” notes French actress Marion Cotillard, cast in the role of Lady Macbeth. “But it created an energy that carried us the whole way.”

“It was terrifying,” admits Reynor. “But it’s one of those things where, if it wasn’t going to be difficult then it probably wasn’t worth doing in the first place and I really did relish the challenge. It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to bring this verse to life with this cast, with no formal Shakespeare training.”

What the verse offers, though, is something Shakespeare has always been renowned for: the use of language as manipulation. And in Macbeth, manipulation is very much the name of the game. “You watch Michael with Marion or Michael and Paddy and it feels like a scene out of Goodfellas, with all these characters trying to manipulate one another in very clever, very conniving ways,” explains Kurzel. “There’s a subtext to that which is unspoken and it’s really interesting in Macbeth in that there’s a secrecy and tension that happens which is almost conversational as opposed to artificial.”

While the writers worked to adapt Shakespeare’s play to the big screen, the producers first thought turned to the casting of Macbeth himself, a choice which they knew would form the backbone of the entire production.

“Macbeth” will hit theaters on December 4, 2015.