Chloé Zhao To Direct Adaptation Of Shakespeare-Era Novel ‘Hamnet’

Chloé Zhao, who won the Best Director Oscar a few years ago for Nomadland, has figured out her next project. She will direct an adaptation of Maggie O’Farrell‘s acclaimed Shakespeare-era novel Hamnet for Amblin Partners. Zhao will also write the screenplay alongside O’Farrell.

Hamnet reframes the creation of William Shakespeare‘s most famous play, Hamlet, through the lens of the playwright’s wife Agnes (herself a variation on Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s real wife), as she grieves the death of her only son, 11-year-old Hamnet, to the bubonic plauge.

The novel also traces the beginnings of Agnes’ relationship with young Shakespeare — who is never named, known only as the world’s most famous playwright. In 2020, Hamnet won the Women’s Prize for fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

Alongside Amblin, Hera Pictures, Neal Street Productions, and Book of Shadows are also backing the project. This will be Zhao’s first film since 2021’s MCU film Eternals, which grossed just over $402 million globally. That was on the heels of Zhao’s Oscar win – only the second woman ever to win best director at the Oscars after Kathryn Bigelow.

Eternals always felt like an odd detour in Zhao’s career after her pensive, personal dramas like Nomadland and The Rider. Hamnet sounds like a fascinating character drama that will get her back to what she does best.

Considering Zhao’s prior success, how well she directs actors – Frances McDormand won Best Actress for Nomadland at the same Oscars – and also the Shakespeare association, there should be an avalanche of actors lining up for roles in this one.


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