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Hamlet (1990) Poster

(1990)

Trivia

Director Franco Zeffirelli reportedly wanted Mel Gibson for the titular role after seeing his near-suicide scene in Lethal Weapon (1987)
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The only known example of a UK U-certificate film to feature the C-word. Mel Gibson as mad-Hamlet talks of "country matters" to Ophelia. He is not referring to farms.
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Glenn Close, who plays Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, is only nine years older than Mel Gibson, who plays her onscreen son. While this age difference would almost certainly make their onscreen relationship biologically impossible in their real lives, it represents an improvement over the age difference between the actors playing Hamlet and Gertrude in the 1948 film version, in which Laurence Olivier (Hamlet) was actually almost eleven years *older* than Eileen Herlie, who played Hamlet's mother, Gertrude.
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In the Italian version, Mel Gibson's voice was dubbed by Giancarlo Giannini. Franco Zeffirelli personally chose Giannini.
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About Hamlet's famous "To be or not to be" monologue, many critics have complained for decades about the line: "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them?" The complaint is that Hamlet is mixing metaphors: Fortune (Fate) does not actually shoot arrows at people, and you can't use your swords against the sea. The assumption seems to be that Shakespeare was too tired, or too lazy, to fit metaphorical causes with metaphorical effects. Shakespeare (and therefore Hamlet) were too smart to be that sloppy in their speech. Hamlet is complaining that these forces (fate and the ocean) are precisely too abstract, too formless, too monstrous, and too inhuman for a human to use weapons against - arrows against a vague idea such as Fortune, or swords and knives against an ocean. You can't fight on those levels. Hamlet was grieving, but he was never stupid.
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Mel Gibson's only previous Shakespeare experience was playing Juliet in an all male production of "Romeo and Juliet" in Australia. By contrast, Alan Bates (who played Claudius) had played Hamlet in London in 1970 and Paul Scofield (who played the Ghost) had played the part in 1948 and 1955 and is considered one of the greatest twentieth century interpreters of the role.
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This was the first Shakespeare role that Glenn Close had ever attempted on either stage or screen.
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Alan Bates, who plays Claudius, previously played Hamlet on stage. Derek Jacobi, who played Claudius six years later in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996), also previously played Hamlet.
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Mel Gibson founded his production company Icon to raise the financing for this film, as no major studio wanted to back a Shakespeare film.
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The play uses the words "honest" and "honesty" many times, because the drama carries the themes of both honorableness and truthfulness/deceit. When Hamlet asks Ophelia if she is honest, that word, in Shakespeare's time, first meant honorable and secondly meant truthful. He was asking if she was good. When he asks her if she is fair, he doesn't ask whether she considers herself impartial and principled, but whether she considers herself beautiful. Of course, Hamlet puns all the time, so the audience should anticipate all possible meanings of his words.
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In this film version, Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech comes after his meeting with Ophelia (the "get thee to a nunnery" speech). Shakespeare has the monologue directly before their meeting.
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Michael Maloney (Rosencrantz) would later play Laertes in Hamlet (1996).
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