Roland Emmerich is not the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of Shakespeare on film. That’d be Sir Laurence Olivier or Kenneth Branagh, of course. In fact, if one were to make a list of the filmmakers most likely to make a movie about the Bard, Emmerich wouldn’t even rate a mention.
The 55-year-old is best known as the director behind such big-budget, end-of-the-world spectacles as “Independence Day” and “2012,” which are far cries from Shakespearean fare.
Still, Emmerich’s “Anonymous,” which opens tomorrow, is a costume drama set in Elizabethan England that posits the man from Stratford-upon-Avon as but a figurehead for the real author of “Macbeth”: Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans).
In honor of the better-than-expected flick, we look at some of the most unlikely director-subject combinations in recent film history:
At the time, it seemed unthinkable: The boy wonder, so adept at fantasy and adventure filcks, couldn’t possibly make a serious black-and-white movie about the Holocaust, could he? Spielberg proved the skeptics wrong with this Best Picture-winning masterpiece, which packs an emotional punch.
‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’
Newell was best known for character-based films such as the rom-com “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and the mob flick “Donnie Brasco” when he signed on for the fourth installment of the “Harry Potter” juggernaut. “Goblet” is considered one of the series’ best.
‘The Straight Story’
The prospect of the man behind “Blue Velvet” and “Twin Peaks” making a G-rated movie seems to be about as likely as Kim Kardashian winning an Oscar for her upcoming role in Tyler Perry’s “The Marriage Counselor.” But make it he did, and “The Straight Story” is no less accomplished than the rest of Lynch’s offbeat, risqué best.
Gus Van Sant
‘Good Will Hunting’
Gus Van Sant was a Hollywood outsider, having come to prominence with the indie sensations “Drugstore Cowboy” and “My Own Private Idaho.” The mainstream, feel-good “Good Will Hunting” proved Van Sant could work within the system and still produce distinctive, affecting work.