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Hamlet (1996) Poster

(1996)

Trivia

Robin Williams and Billy Crystal were not allowed to be on the set at the same time during filming, for fear they would crack up the cast and crew, and cause major production delays.
Kate Winslet (Ophelia) learned on the day that she had to shoot the straitjacket scene that she had just been given the role of Rose in Titanic (1997).
At 3 hours and 58 minutes, this is one of the longest Hollywood films of all time.
Julie Christie came out of retirement to play Gertrude.
Some pathologists conducted a study determining how long a person lasts before dying after being stabbed directly. A scene from the film where Hamlet kills Polonius was also viewed as reference to their study. In the end, it was found that a person, after being stabbed directly, can only last long enough to utter four words. This means that Polonius's uttering of the words "O, I am slain" as he dies is medically possible.
At nine, this films holds the record for the most Oscar winning actors in the cast: Jack Lemmon (Marcellus), who won Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts (1955) and Best Actor for Save the Tiger (1973), Charlton Heston (The Player King), who won Best Actor for Ben-Hur (1959), Julie Christie (Gertrude), who won Best Actress for Darling (1965), John Mills (Old Norway), who won Best Supporting Actor for Ryan's Daughter (1970), John Gielgud (Priam), who won Best Supporting Actor for Arthur (1981), Richard Attenborough (The English Ambassador), who won Best Director for Gandhi (1982), Robin Williams (Osric), who won Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting (1997), Judi Dench (Hecuba), who won Best Supporting Actress for Shakespeare in Love (1998), and Kate Winslet (Ophelia), who won Best Actress for The Reader (2008).
Kate Winslet did not even audition for the role of Ophelia. Winslet had previously auditioned for the Helena Bonham Carter "Elizabeth" role in Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), and Branagh was so impressed that he offered her the role in Hamlet (1996) without so much as a reading. Appropriately, Carter had played Ophelia in Hamlet (1990).
The first "full-length" film version of "Hamlet" ever made (using the Second Quarto (1604) text with additions from the First Folio (1623) to create an idealized "complete" Hamlet).
Kenneth Branagh offered Gérard Depardieu a small part in the four-hour version of the film out of gratitude for his active support on the release of his first feature Henry V (1989) in France (not only was he the main distributor of the film but also dubbed Branagh's voice on the French version).
One of William Shakespeare's lines is actually changed with no acknowledgment. The sorrows come line "O Gertrude, Gertrude, when sorrows come they come not as single spies, but in battalions" becomes simply "When sorrows come they come not as single spies, but in battalions," probably because Claudius delivers them in voiceover and we do not know to whom he is speaking. It is the only line in the film that is changed because of the way the scene is filmed.
When filming the flashback scene during Hamlet's "Yorick" speech, shown in vision only with no sound, Kenneth Branagh's only instruction to Ken Dodd was "Okay, make us laugh," which he did.
Kenneth Branagh's decision to shoot in 65mm was largely inspired by a film format seminar conducted by visual consultant Rob Hummel. Hummel convinced him to use the format because of high-resolution and certain shots could only be achieved in 65mm. Also, Branagh once said that the intention was to give a sweeping feel to the play, hearkening back to the 1960s - epics like Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
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Part of the movie was shot at Blenheim Palace, which is owned by the Duke Of Marlborough. The then-duke John Spencer-Churchill had a very small role in the movie as Fortinbras' General.
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Derek Jacobi who plays Claudius in this film, played Hamlet in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1980). He admitted that he had some difficulty with the role of Claudius as he kept thinking Hamlet's lines. Simon Russell Beale has also played Hamlet on stage.
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For more than a year, Kenneth Branagh had tried shopping the project around major studios in Hollywood, but no studio was willing to finance a four-hour production, citing skepticism of the commercial viability of a William Shakespeare adaptation to a late 20th-century audience. Also, most studios were aware of the negative reviews and the commercial failure of Branagh's previously-directed film, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) and some of them would only finance the film if the content and the budget is cut to half. However, Castle Rock Entertainment, agreed to finance the film and to Branagh's demands (filming in 65mm, complete control over the film, etc..) under two conditions: a star-studded cast for the show and a 35mm, abridged 2.5 hour version of the show for a wider release.
For 16 years, it was the last studio film to be shot in the 65/70mm process until the release of Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master (2012).
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Hugh Crumwell was the then-principal of the RADA in which Kenneth Branagh studied. Crumwell was on the set all the time; he came as a request by Branagh to give an objective critique for the performance of each take.
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The construction of the interiors of the "Elsinore Castle" set (actually Blenheim Palace) cost $2 million alone. The exteriors are simply the exteriors of the palace and had already been standing since 1784.
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None of the palatial interiors are really the inside of Blenheim Palace. They are actually studio-built interiors. All that is actually shown of the Palace are the exterior of it, and the gardens.
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Released just six years after a previous Hamlet (1990), which starred Mel Gibson. Ophelia was played in that film by Helena Bonham Carter, who at the time of this film's release, was romantically involved with director Kenneth Branagh. Claudius was played by Alan Bates who, like Derek Jacobi, came to the role having previously played Hamlet.
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The title of Hamlet's play-within-a-play is "The Murder of Gonzago", which may or may not have been extrapolated from an Italian prose work. However, when asked its title by Claudius, Hamlet responds by bestowing on it a new moniker, which reflects its purpose (to "catch the conscience of the King") - he calls it "The Mousetrap".
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Star/Director Kenneth Branagh first encountered the 'full length' version of the play while performing in the 1992 BBC Radio production of the play with co-stars Derek Jacobi and Richard Briers (who would reprise their roles as Claudius and Polonius respectively in the film). This radio performance anticipated the winter 1992 full text production of Hamlet by the Royal Shakespeare company - the one that would finally crystallize Branagh's interpretation of the character and lead to the film.
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Cast members Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, and Gérard Depardieu have all played Cyrano de Bergerac. As translated into English by Anthony Burgess, in the speech where Cyrano rattles off a list of possible insults to his nose, he includes "Oh that this too, too solid nose would melt," a parody of the "too, too solid flesh" line from this play. (In the Brian Hooker translation of "Cyrano", which José Ferrer played onstage and on film, the line is given as "Was this the nose that launched a thousand ships?", a parody of "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships", a line from Christopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus".)
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The soliloquies spoken by Hamlet are almost all shot in one uninterrupted cut, except for "to be or not to be."
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The was the first British film to be shot in 65mm since David Lean's Ryan's Daughter (1970), in which John Mills, was made in Ireland 26 years earlier. In the interim, Far and Away (1992) (also shot in 65mm in Ireland) was a Hollywood production on location.
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Many of the actors in the film have worked with director/lead actor Kenneth Branagh before this production. Examples include Richard Briers (Much Ado About Nothing (1993)), Derek Jacobi (Dead Again (1991)), Robin Williams (Dead Again), and Brian Blessed (Henry V (1989)).
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Richard Attenborough later appeared in Elizabeth (1998) as William Cecil, 1st Lord Burghley, who is believed by some scholars to have inspired the character Polonius.
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This was Charlton Heston's only appearance in a William Shakespeare film playing a character other than Mark Antony, whom he played in Julius Caesar (1950), Julius Caesar (1970) and Antony and Cleopatra (1972).
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Michael Maloney (Laertes) previously played Rosencrantz in Hamlet (1990).
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This film marked the only on screen William Shakespeare role for either John Mills (Old Norway) or Richard Attenborough (The English Ambassador).
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Nicholas Farrell (Horatio) previously played Hamlet in Shakespeare: The Animated Tales: Hamlet (1992).
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This was the first film in which both John Mills (Old Norway) and Richard Attenborough (The English Ambassador) appeared since Dunkirk (1958) 38 years earlier. However, Attenborough directed Mills in three films in the interim: Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), Young Winston (1972) and Gandhi (1982).
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Richard Briers (Polonius), Michael Maloney (Laertes) and Nicholas Farrell (Horatio) all appeared in Kenneth Branagh's previous film A Midwinter's Tale (1995), which concerns an amateur production of "Hamlet". They played Joe Harper, Henry Wakefield and Tom Newman.
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John Mills (Old Norway) and Richard Attenborough (The English Ambassador) were offered the roles of the murderers in Richard III (1955), in which John Gielgud (Priam) played the Duke of Clarence. However, Mills believed that it would be stunt casting and Attenborough was unavailable.
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At the very end of his DVD director's commentary, Kenneth Branagh reveals that Stephen Fry receives a special thanks credit because Brannagh wrote the screenplay in Fry's kitchen.
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Like others before him who simultaneously acted and directed a film, Kenneth Branagh used an acting double, Orlando Seale to play Hamlet during camera set-ups and rehearsals. This means Seale had to learn and perform almost the entire play with the entire cast, yet only appears on screen as an extra, playing the part of a 'Boatman'.
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