Last night I was watching the Great Performances / PBS airing of Hamlet, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. It's a really, really terrific production, and Tennant's manic melancholy is perfectly suited to the titular Dane.
The set design and costuming is fantastic (and looks great in HD), and it got me to thinking. Hamlet is one of the best, and most durable, stories around, and has been adapted into a wide variety of settings. You had Olivier's Oscar turn in 1948. Franco Zeffereli produced an abridged version with Mel Gibson and Glenn Close. Brannagh put together a four hour opus with a late 19th century setting. Ethan Hawke starred in another adaptation that took place in corporate America. The Lion King put an animal kingdom and African spin on the story. Sons of Anarchy is inspired by Hamlet, and places it in contemporary SoCal, in the world of outlaw bikers. Hell, even Strange Brew follows Hamlet.
But being a good Georgia boy, I wondered why we haven't seen a "southern" take on the story. Tragedy, familial dysfunction, ghosts, betrayals, dueling - all these elements would fit right in with a Southern Gothic setting.
It could take place in 1860s Georgia or Mississippi. Elsinore could be a large, prosperous plantation. Norway could be represented by the Union army. To take away some of the historically unsavory elements, we could set it in an alternate universe with no slavery (hey, Tarantino killed Hitler because it was more fun that way. Roll with me here). Or hell, taking that even further, it could be in a truly parallel universe, with the time period brought forward to a more steampunk, late 19th / early 20th century southern setting that kept charm and trappings of the Grand Ole South, yet afforded the story more leeway in terms of the surrounding set design and costuming. Wouldn't that be an interesting place for a timeless tale?
So who would we cast? Last night, I threw out this silly idea, and exchanged a few emails with a dear friend and we came up with some suggestions. The actors had to have "southern" roots, which was loosely defined as the "traditional" south, or even the southwestern states like Texas. And the ages aren't perfect, but that's never been a problem with the Bard. What would you think about:
Josh Holloway as Hamlet.
Alternates: Jensen Ackles.
Billy Bob Thornton as Claudius.
Alternates: Tommy Lee Jones. Hal Holbrook.
Holly Hunter as Gertrude.
Alternates: The late Dixie Carter. Sela Ward. Kim Basinger.
Amy Acker as Ophelia.
Alternates: Taryn Manning, Dianna Agron.
Ben Browder as Horatio.
Alternates: Jensen Ackles. Harry Connick Jr.
Kyle Chandler as Polonius.
Alternates: John Corbett. James Denton. Eric Roberts. Bill Paxton.
Jared Padalecki as Laertes.
Alternates: Kip Pardue.
Matt Letscher as Fortinbras.
Alternates: Matthew Fox.
Any other ideas for casting the Southern Gothic Hamlet? Or any suggestions on another, alternate setting for this classic story?