The 2014 Oscars & Shakespeare

With the 2014 Academy Awards just around the corner we’ve taken a look at the Shakespeare connection to this year’s Oscar nominees. And as with most years, the connections between Hollywood’s top awards ceremony and the Bard of Avon are strong, with no less than 11 Hollywood A-listers have previous with Shakespeare on screen or stage: Lupito Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Meryl Streep, Sally Hawkins, Leonardo di Caprio, Cate Blanchett, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve Coogan, Christian Bale and Amy Adams.

Michael Fassbender, nominated as supporting male actor in 12 Years a Slave has just finished filming a new version of Macbeth. His colleague in 12 Years, Chiwetel Ejiofor, the British actor and nominee for male lead actor in the same film, had rave reviews for his portrayal of Othello at the Donmar Warehouse recently. He’s also performed on London stages in Twelfth Night, Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth. Sticking with the 12 Years cast Lupita Nyong’o earned a nomination for best female supporting actor, began her career as a student at Yale, starring in The Winter’s Tale and The Taming of the Shrew productions by the Yale School of Drama.

We all know that Leonardo DiCaprio’s most famous film is Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet. His nomination is for male lead actor for his brilliant performance in The Wolf of Wall Street. What is not generally known, though, is that Christian Bale, the essential Hollywood star, and tipped to win for American Hustle, cut his film teeth in two Shakespeare films: Henry V and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1988 and 1989 respectively (very young!).

Cate Blanchett, nominated for best female actor in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, has an interesting connection with Shakespeare, having played the male protagonist in a Shakespeare play, as Richard II at the 2009 Sydney Festival. And Sally Hawkins, nominated as supporting actor for Blue Jasmine, began her acting career fourteen years ago in stage performances in Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2000.

It would be impossible to understate Dame Judi Dench’s association with Shakespeare, on both stage and screen over a long acting career. Her connection with both Shakespeare and the Oscars deepens with her Oscar win for best female actor in a supporting role in the film, Shakespeare in Love in 1999. And fellow Brit actor Steve Coogan is nominated this year for best adapted screenplay – Philomena. In 2008 he played the lead in Hamlet 2 – a comedic take on a sequel of The Scottish Play.

Amy Adams, red hot tip for best female actor – in American Hustle – and Merryl Streep, Oscar veteran and nominee, also for best female actor – August-Osage County – have both been involved recently in performances of the prestigious New York Shakespeare company, Shakespeare in the Park. Amy Adams was in their staging of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods in 2012 and Meryl Streep took part in the Park’s stage reading of Romeo and Juliet – reading Juliet to Kevin Kline’s Romeo – at the New York Shakespeare festival, also 2012.

Though Dame Helen Mirren has not made the Oscar nomination this year, she picked up  British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) Fellowship Award this year. She ended her acceptance speech with some words from The Tempest in which Shakespeare nicely sums up what life on the boards (and presumably on the silver screen) is all about: 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

So with this in mind, best of luck to all the actors and actresses hoping to pick up an award on March 2nd!

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1 reply
  1. LexaGraeme
    LexaGraeme says:

    Very interesting. I had forgotten Christian Bale was in the latest film version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I do need to make one correction on your list, though. A quibble, really, but my OCD cannot overlook it:
    “We all know that Leonardo DiCaprio’s most famous film is Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet.” Really? I could have sworn there was another one that made him a household name–something about a big ship and an iceberg…can’t quite think of the title. However, I will say I prefer him in “William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet” much more than the other.


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