Helen Mirren reigns over Taymor's "Tempest"

Wed Oct 8, 2008 2:40am EDT
 
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By Borys Kit

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Julie Taymor is gathering blue-blooded Oscar winners and up-and-comers for her big-screen adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest."

In a gender-defying twist, Helen Mirren will reign over the magical island. Although the play centers on Prospero, an exiled duke-turned-sorcerer, Taymor -- who likes to take an experimental approach to her stage and film projects -- has rechristened the lead character Prospera so that the Oscar-winning star of "The Queen" can take on the role.

Mirren will be surrounded by Jeremy Irons, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Ben Whishaw and Felicity Jones. Geoffrey Rush is in negotiations to join the cast.

The film is eyeing a November start date in Hawaii. Miramax has acquired the rights to all English-speaking territories.

Shakespeare's play mixes romance with fraternal politics and the supernatural. As revised for the screen, it will center around Prospera, her daughter Miranda (Jones) and a shipwrecked crew full of Prospera's enemies.

The island's other inhabitants include Hounsou as the deformed slave Caliban and Whishaw as the airy spirit Ariel.

On the ship are raunchy British comedian Brand, playing Trinculo, a jester; Irons, as Alonso, the King of Naples; and Molina as the drunken butler Stephano. Rush would play Gonzalo, a royal adviser and old ally of Prospera's.

The cast includes an unusually high concentration of Oscar-winning stars. Besides Mirren, Irons took home the best actor trophy for "Reversal of Fortune" and Rush got the nod for "Shine." Hounsou secured nominations for his supporting roles in "Blood Diamond" and "In America."

"The Tempest" is Taymor's second big-screen foray into Shakespearean territory -- she turned his "Titus Andronicus" into the 1999 film "Titus," starring Anthony Hopkins. Her other credits include "Frida" and the Broadway musical adaptation of "The Lion King."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter