In the four centuries that have passed since shakespeare wrote the Scottish play, there never was a Macbeth What Denzel Washington.
Two time Oscar winner, is often considered the great actor of his generation, and has already received every possible nomination for his new film The tragedy of Macbeth Available this Friday on the platform AppleTV+.
Washington is 67 years old and his Lady Macbeth is played by the 64-year-old actress Frances McDormand. Which means the ruthless couple could hardly possibly father an heir to their reign.
“They are tired and they are older,” Washington told AFP, explaining that the passage of time gave his characters a different but equally malevolent motivation.
“They’re like, ‘Look, this is our chance. They owe us.'”
“Drastic times call for drastic measures. And the clock is ticking.”
How could Washington, clashing swords with various rivals in multiple exhausting encounters throughout the film’s ending, have played this role any differently 20 or 30 years ago?
“Probably more physically. Not giving in to the reality of how my knees are at this point in my life!” he says.
And of course, Washington is black. just like the actor Corey Hawkin, 33, who plays his nemesis and eventual victor macduff.
This detail, although it is a historical anachronism for the 11th century Scotland, is far from being new. Orson Welles directed a version of Macbeth with a black cast in 1936.
“Obviously we’re different, so I think that’s a good thing,” Washington said at a roundtable with reporters.
“In my humble opinion, we should get to a point where diversity doesn’t even have to be highlighted as something special“. “These young people, black, white, blue, green, or whatever, they’re talented and qualified, and that’s why they’re here.”
Hawkins added, “I can’t change this skin, or this hair. But what I can do is be great at something that people might not be expecting. We weren’t thinking in black and white.”
Ironically, the film is shot in black and white, and in a narrow format, with its minimalist and elegant sets evoking the early years of Hollywood.
Macbeth it has been worked before in various formats on the big screen by influential directors, including Welles, Akira Kurosawa and Roman Polanski.
But Washington says it saw no previous executions of Macbeth, and chose not to pursue them after the directorJoel Coen the cast decided.
“I didn’t want to look at someone and say ‘how the hell am I going to do better than that?'” says Washington, whose Macbeth is initially understated and subtle, before his rage, ambition and madness are unleashed. I didn’t want it to impact what I was doing. So I interpreted it with a fresh eye, and with imagination.”
Still, Washington has a tradition when it comes to shakespeare.
He starred on Broadway in a version of Julius Caesar, and also participated in Much ado About Nothing, from Kenneth Brangh.
Hawkins says he hoped to see him, Washington and other black cast members, including Washington’s daughter Olivia, inspire minority youth with minor roles to give Shakespeare’s works a try.
“If there is any boy or girl who wants to see this movie, it might make them curious about it,” he said.
“Yes, black people love Shakespeare. We probably love Shakespeare without knowing that we love Shakespeare, because there are so many cultural references and in songs that we like.”
“It’s an honor to be able to do this, and to be side by side with these actors, these black actors,” Hawkins said.
“Because we have as much property as anyone else.”