Riz Ahmed To Star In New Film Adaptation Of ‘Hamlet’


Following the critical success of Joel Coen‘s The Tragedy of Macbeth late last year, another William Shakespeare adaptation is in the works. This time it’s Hamlet, and Riz Ahmed has signed on for the lead role.

He’ll be joined by director and frequent collaborator Aneil Karia (Surge), as well as Joe Alwyn (The Favourite), and Morfydd Clark (Saint Maud) on camera.

The adaptation will follow the same plot line of the original play but will put a modern spin on it. Hamlet is driven to madness by the ghost of his father, who tells his son to avenge his murder. Taking place in London, the film will see Hamlet rubbing elbows with the rich and famous all while attempting to pin the murder on his father’s true killer – Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius.

Michael Lesslie, who previously wrote Justin Kurzel‘s 2015 adaptation of Macbeth that starred Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, is penning the script.

Ahmed and Karia previously teamed up for The Long Goodbye, a short film Karia directed that accompanied Ahmed’s 2020 hip hop album of the same name. The film ended up winning the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film that year, so it makes sense that the two are eager to collaborate again.

They mentioned in a statement that their version of Hamlet will focus on “race, privilege, corruption – and whether setting things right means setting fire to the entire old order.” They added that the film will revolve around a wealthy British Indian family who will climb the social ladders in England at great personal cost.

If Hamlet matches the success of The Tragedy of Macbeth, there’s a good chance we’ll see a whole host of new Shakespeare adaptations, á la when the huge box office numbers for IT led to studios commissioning an adaptation of any Stephen King book they could get their hands on.

Of course, Hollywood has a history of Shakespeare adaptations, but usually in different forms. There was the contemporary-set (with original dialogue) Romeo + Juliet in 1996 and the similar Ethan Hawke-led Hamlet in 2000. Classic romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You was also famously a teen riff on The Taming Of The Shrew.

Hamlet sounds like it will be a good mix of classic Shakespeare mixed in with a more diverse cast and a focus on contemporary issues. Ahmed and Karia could have many years of collaborating together if Hamlet has Oscar success like The Long Goodbye did.


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