Winners and "Willers" All
Eighty years ago today, director Michael Winner (1935-2013) was born in London and would grow up to direct over 30 movies, many of them durable action tales starring the likes of Charles Bronson (The Mechanic (1972), available on Twilight Time Blu-ray) and Burt Lancaster (Scorpio (1973), debuting on TT Blu-ray in two weeks). Winner carved out an unique career that also involved comedies, mysteries and a post-directorial reinvention as a restaurant columnist. The Winner streak will continue in the year ahead because more great Winner/Bronson and Winner/Lancaster collaborations are in the TT pipeline.
Acclaimed stage and screen director Julie Taymor has been brushing up her Shakespeare for more than three decades – and Sunday night she’s being honored for it by the world-renowned Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC. She will become the first female American director to receive the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, citing, in the words of Shakespeare Theatre Artistic Director Michael Kahn, Taymor’s “bold, visionary work for the stage and screen that has brought classical work to new audiences and strengthened appreciation of what makes Shakespeare’s creations timeless.” Her focus has been on three key works: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest and Titus Andronicus. The last-named resulted in a ferociously visceral experience that shook Shakespeare – and moviegoers – to the core: Titus (1999), starring Anthony Hopkins as a Roman general with a bloody legacy and a rigid code of honor and Jessica Lange as his barbarian monarch captive who has vowed revenge most merciless. TT’s hi-def Blu-ray of Titus is a feast for those curious about the process of creative collaboration: three commentaries, Eliott Goldenthal’s varied and electrifying score on an isolated track, making-of and production featurettes, a Taymor Q&A and much more.
Two previous “Will” Award winners, both hailing from Shakespeare’s native England, also joined the TT label within the past year. Kenneth Branagh’s film debut, A Month in the Country (1987), arrived this past Summer. And the other honoree’s movie is squarely in the Shakespearean wheelhouse: Ian McKellen as Richard III (1995), a stylish and wickedly effective update of the murderous hunchback’s bloody rise to the English throne, set in a decadent 1930s Britain with fascistic overtones, glamorous fashions, sexual indiscretions and rampant drug use. The cast can’t get more regal: Annette Bening, Robert Downey Jr., Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Nigel Hawthorne, Kristin Scott Thomas, John Wood, Jim Carter, Adrian Dunbar, Edward Hardwicke, Bill Paterson and Dominic West. Directed by Richard Loncraine and based on Richard Eyre’s acclaimed 1990-1992 Royal National Theatre touring production starring McKellen, Richard III is a poisonously sparkling jewel on TT Blu-ray. Titus and Richard III bring the Bard to screen life with sheer “Will” power.