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‘The Tragedy Of Macbeth’: Read The Screenplay For Joel Coen’s Potboiler Take On Shakespeare’s Tragedy

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Editors note: Deadline’s Read the Screenplay series debuts and celebrates the scripts of films that will be factors in this year’s movie awards race.Inspired by his wife and longtime creative collaborator Frances McDormand’s blistering stage performance, writer-director Joel Coen wanted to find his own way into William Shakespeare’s enduring tragedy Macbeth with a key goal in mind for his film adaptation, Apple and A24’s The Tragedy of Macbeth.“I tried to make a film as much for people who don’t go to see Shakespeare as for anybody,” Coen says.Working independently from his usual filmmaking partner and brother Ethan, and absent any longstanding personal ambition to adapt Shakespeare to the screen, Coen instead first saw the cinematic possibilities in the four-century-old play while watching McDormand perform Lady Macbeth at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2016 with her signature emotional honesty and intensity. “I kept thinking if I could get closer to this with a camera, it will be even more psychological and exciting,” he recalled.To craft the screenplay, Coen consulted his longtime friend Hanford Woods, a Shakespeare professor, to pour over every line with him, delve into the histories of various productions, consider critical and historical analyses and examine Shakespeare’s own sources for the story.

The filmmaker even challenged some of the text’s most timeless lines of dialogue. “At some questions [Woods] would say ‘You’re joking,’ and I would say ‘I’m not joking,’” recalls Coen. “No matter how much you read Shakespeare, there are certain things that can remain a little bit opaque, and some of the words can be ambiguous, so I wanted to understand as much as possible how everything was intended.”Coen ultimately

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