With Hamlet already under his belt, Michael Almereyda is turning his attention to a lesser known Shakespearean classic, Cymbeline. Based on a number of legends about the early Celtic British King Cunobelinus, the romantic thriller is a typical Shakespearean blend of love, jealousy, plot and counterplot.

Almereyda is planning on updating the tale, setting it in 21st century America in a world of corrupt cops and drug dealing biker gangs, to tell the story of a princess who marries beneath herself against her father’s orders. Rumour has it that Almereyda wants Ed Harris in the title role, with the veteran actor potentially leading a gang rather than a country.
This is by no means the first time one of the Bard’s plays has been adapted for the big screen. Here’s a selection of some of the more unusual films based on his work.

West Side Story

Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, West Side Story is based on one of the most famous Shakespeare plays, Romeo and Juliet. Set in New York’s Manhattan in the late 1950s, two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, are constantly at loggerheads, with frequent outbreaks of violence between them. The leaders of the Jets decide to challenge the Sharks to one, ultimate battle to decide once and for all who gets the territory. They agree that Tony, a former gang leader and now shop worker, would be the best person to deliver the challenge at a local dance. Initially, Tony refuses, but he’s eventually persuaded. At the dance, he sees Maria, a sister of one of the Sharks, and the pair instantly fall in love, just as Shakespeare’s original couple did.
The film was greeted with unanimous praise and won ten Academy Awards out of its eleven nominations, including the highly coveted Best Picture, making it the musical with the highest number of Oscars to its name. However, Leonard Bernstein, who composed the score for the original musical, disapproved of how it was orchestrated for film – the original orchestra of around 30 musicians accompanying the stage production, was tripled for the film’s score, and Bernstein felt that it was ‘overbearing and lacking in texture and subtlety.’

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