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View Full Version : Who are your favorite Shakespearean actors?



ktm5124
08-01-2009, 08:17 AM
(I think I'm posting this in the right forum.)

My ultimate top would have to be Laurence Olivier. I absolutely adore his production of Richard III. I thought his Hamlet was good but not as good, and I'm anxious to watch his Othello.

I also really like Derek Jacobi's performance in BBC's Richard II, though I haven't seen any other performances of his (except as Senator Gracchus in Gladiator).

Richard Burton's gruff laugh in The Taming of the Shrew is classic, and Elizabeth Taylor does a great job in it too. Haven't seen any of their other work, though.

Who are other people's favorite Shakespearean actors? It will be especially interesting to hear about those who have performed on film, so that I can check out those videos on your recommendations =)

wessexgirl
08-01-2009, 09:08 AM
Ooh where do I start? I have so many.

I absolutely adore Olivier, but I love many others too. His Henry V and Hamlet are superb. I'm a bit of an anorak on Shakespeare, I have so many versions on video and dvd. I love Kenneth Branagh, (you might want to join the group on here, there are quite a few of us who love him :nod:). His Henry V is just wonderful, as is his Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing and his performance as Iago in Othello is brilliant, although the rest of the production is so-so. The man was born to play Shakespeare. Going back a few years, I seem to remember liking the Jon Finch Macbeth a lot, but I haven't watched it in years, so it may not have stood the test of time. I think it's directed by Polanski, a filmed version with the bleak landscapes etc. but you can't beat Ian McKellan and Judi Dench's version which is very dark, literally, and is a taped stage version. Her cry at one point is such a powerful piece of theatre. Moving and chilling. Paul Schofield's Lear is just unbeatable, in the Peter Brook film, in black and white, and very, very bleak etc. But that man had the most perfect voice for the Bard. Absolutely wonderful. I did see Olivier as Lear too, years ago on tv, if you can get that it would be worth your while. I collect as much Shakespeare as I can, trying to get everything that is brought out on dvd. The Leonard Whiting/Olivia Hussey version of Romeo and Juliet is the best version, in my opinion to get of that. The leads are very young, as they should be. I think she was only about 14 or 15 when she made it, but they are surrounded by the cream of British acting talent. I don't think I appreciated that play as much when I was younger as I do now. I've always preferred the history plays. I think I would like to get (when I can afford it), the BBC collection. They aimed to do every play some time ago, and I don't know if they completed it, but there is a boxed set available of what they finished, but it costs well over a hundred pounds!

There is so much out there for you that you'll be spoiled for choice, but I would say get all the Olivier's, the Branagh's, the Schofield's, the Mckellen's and you can't go wrong, (even his updated Richard 111 is good, although I don't usually like altered versions). Oh and I forgot Jacobi, he's fantastic too. He's part of Branagh's Renaissance company, so he's in all the films. I've seen him on stage as Richard 111, and he's wonderful, not least because there was a heatwave going on at the time, and we were all melting in the audience, so I don't know how actors cope with it, and continue to give a great performance! I saw him as Beckett too, outstanding.

Welcome to the Bard's Appreciation Society, :lol: and enjoy the magic.

Helga
08-01-2009, 11:15 AM
Kevin Spacey was King Richard in 'Richard II' when I saw it in London a few years ago, he was amazing, love him. but there are usually good actors in Shakespeare, I really like Al Pacino in 'the merchant from Venice' but I usually don't like him. calista flockhart was good as Helena in 'midsummer night's dream' most of the plays and movies I have seen based on his plays are good, except the ones that are set in our time, I hate that. like 'romeo and juliet' with dicaprio and 'O' a basketball film. I lik'em the way Shakespeare wrot'em

MANICHAEAN
08-01-2009, 01:23 PM
Do John Heminges & Henry Condell count, as actors in the "Kings Men", the playing company for which Shakespeare wrote?

Drkshadow03
08-01-2009, 01:46 PM
The Hobart Shakespeareans! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1XvC4Cz_EU&feature=channel)

MANICHAEAN
08-01-2009, 02:05 PM
You shall know a word by the company it keeps.

kelby_lake
08-01-2009, 02:37 PM
Richard Burton had a great voice

LMK
08-01-2009, 02:45 PM
There are several notables that come to mind, many already listed above, but I have to say that the first actor that popped into my head was Kevin Kline's portrayal of Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, he so captured the humor and the dedication without over doing it. I still chuckle remembering him...

~L

breeze
08-01-2009, 02:57 PM
Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy as Hamlet
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1SnT5p-RB0&feature=related

My name is red
08-01-2009, 05:04 PM
me,myself

mortalterror
08-01-2009, 05:31 PM
I've seen a lot of Shakespeare on film and no one delivers the lines better than Sir John Gielgud in Julius Caesar. He somehow manages to upstage James Mason and make Marlon Brando look like a rank amateur.

My favorite character is Falstaff and I cannot imagine any living actor portraying him better than John Goodman. I hear that he performed Henry IV part I out in California several years ago and I wish I could have seen it.

Drkshadow's mention of the Hobart Shakespeare reminds me of a particularly memorable version of the Tempest I once saw. It was from a documentary called Shakespeare Behind Bars. The players were all amateurs but some of them had been there reciting Shakespeare for years and were not half bad. The whole thing is playing on Youtube right now with a few commercials if anyone wants to check it out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PneqAr85NXc&feature=PlayList&p=7FD94602923E9C79&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=1 Anyway, I thought it was better than Al Pacino's Looking For Richard.

kasie
08-02-2009, 06:07 AM
Do John Heminges & Henry Condell count, as actors in the "Kings Men", the playing company for which Shakespeare wrote?

Would there be a video of them we could watch to see if we agree with you? :)

wessexgirl
08-02-2009, 06:24 AM
Would there be a video of them we could watch to see if we agree with you? :)

I wondered that too Kasie :lol:.

kelby_lake
08-02-2009, 06:46 AM
me,myself

:lol: I played Titania when I was 10, at primary school. :)

ktm5124
08-02-2009, 11:02 AM
Wow! Thanks for all the recommendations =) I would love to discuss some of these productions in either in this thread or others, especially the acting involved.

WICKES
08-02-2009, 12:16 PM
My favorite character is Falstaff and I cannot imagine any living actor portraying him better than John Goodman. I hear that he performed Henry IV part I out in California several years ago and I wish I could have seen it.

Drkshadow's mention of the Hobart Shakespeare reminds me of a particularly .

Sorry, I do love America and Americans, but when it comes to Shakespeare the actor has to have an upper class English or British accent. I know Shakespeare wrote for the people and all that but only a smooth, pure upper class English accent like Gielgud's or Olivier's works for me. I have seen Shakespeare's lines recited in every accent under the sun and a refined English accent is the best (local British accents also sound wrong - Newcastle, Yorkshire, West country etc).

Janine
08-02-2009, 12:49 PM
Ooh where do I start? I have so many.

I absolutely adore Olivier, but I love many others too. His Henry V and Hamlet are superb. I'm a bit of an anorak on Shakespeare, I have so many versions on video and dvd. I love Kenneth Branagh, (you might want to join the group on here, there are quite a few of us who love him :nod:). His Henry V is just wonderful, as is his Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing and his performance as Iago in Othello is brilliant, although the rest of the production is so-so. The man was born to play Shakespeare. Going back a few years, I seem to remember liking the Jon Finch Macbeth a lot, but I haven't watched it in years, so it may not have stood the test of time. I think it's directed by Polanski, a filmed version with the bleak landscapes etc. but you can't beat Ian McKellan and Judi Dench's version which is very dark, literally, and is a taped stage version. Her cry at one point is such a powerful piece of theatre. Moving and chilling. Paul Schofield's Lear is just unbeatable, in the Peter Brook film, in black and white, and very, very bleak etc. But that man had the most perfect voice for the Bard. Absolutely wonderful. I did see Olivier as Lear too, years ago on tv, if you can get that it would be worth your while. I collect as much Shakespeare as I can, trying to get everything that is brought out on dvd. The Leonard Whiting/Olivia Hussey version of Romeo and Juliet is the best version, in my opinion to get of that. The leads are very young, as they should be. I think she was only about 14 or 15 when she made it, but they are surrounded by the cream of British acting talent. I don't think I appreciated that play as much when I was younger as I do now. I've always preferred the history plays. I think I would like to get (when I can afford it), the BBC collection. They aimed to do every play some time ago, and I don't know if they completed it, but there is a boxed set available of what they finished, but it costs well over a hundred pounds!

There is so much out there for you that you'll be spoiled for choice, but I would say get all the Olivier's, the Branagh's, the Schofield's, the Mckellen's and you can't go wrong, (even his updated Richard 111 is good, although I don't usually like altered versions). Oh and I forgot Jacobi, he's fantastic too. He's part of Branagh's Renaissance company, so he's in all the films. I've seen him on stage as Richard 111, and he's wonderful, not least because there was a heatwave going on at the time, and we were all melting in the audience, so I don't know how actors cope with it, and continue to give a great performance! I saw him as Beckett too, outstanding.

Welcome to the Bard's Appreciation Society, :lol: and enjoy the magic.

Hi wessexgirl, president of the 'Bard's Appreciation Society' hahah... I think we are pretty much in agreement here. I try to collect a lot of Shakespeare adaptations on DVD or if need be, I will settle for VHS version, until I locate a DVD. I have many of the 'Hamlets'. I didn't care for the modern day versions at all. I have the Olivier, the Mel Gibson (directed by Zefferelli) on VHS, the Derek Jacobi BBC version, and last, but not least - best, I believe - the full-length Kenneth Branagh version! I love Ken Branagh's Shakespeare films best - 'Henry V' being my all time favorite film of it's genre.

For the lighter works, I say this to all, try "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Love's Labours Lost" - I found those delightful and fun. I also own his production of "Twelfth Night"...more a filmed play...his Renaissance group of players are in it, but Branagh isn't; he directs it.

Sir John Gielgud is stellar always. He is one of Branagh's mentors, I know. He once stated he regretted he did not allow his "Hamlet" to be filmed; others have regretted he didn't either. His early performance on stage was suppose to be one of the finest ever. I can only imagine. Earlier, Branagh, put out an audio for the BBC of Hamlet, which is on three CD's set. I found it at my library and now own the set. It's terrific. I think Gielgud plays the ghost, Judi Dench Hamlet's mother; been a while since I listened to it. I have other BBC and Arkangel productions of Shakespeare on CD sets. Gielgud also appears briefly in Branagh's "Hamlet."

I have more comments to make; but unfortunately, I have to shut down the computer because of some severe thunderstorms. I will be back later tonight hopefully.

Emil Miller
08-02-2009, 02:29 PM
The Orson Welles Macbeth was pretty good and let's not forget Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar with a stella cast including John Guilgud, James Mason, Louis Calhern, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr, George Macready and Alan Napier

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhueLkPZ_Kk

Janine
08-02-2009, 09:52 PM
The Orson Welles Macbeth was pretty good and let's not forget Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar with a stella cast including John Guilgud, James Mason, Louis Calhern, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr, George Macready and Alan Napier

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhueLkPZ_Kk

Brian, I have seen that Orson Welles version of "Macbeth" several times now - a very dark film but awesome. It was quite an achievement back then. Glad you mentioned it. My library happens to own it on VHS. I have never seen the "Julius Cassar" you mention but have lately seen several trailers on other old film releases of DVD's. JC is definitely on my list of 'must see' films. This isn't Shakespeare, but I just finished watching the miniseries of "I Claudius"...a friend lent me the set. I would hightly recommend it. Derek Jacobi plays Claudius, as many may already know, a stellar performance. It is worth also to watch the last disk and the extras on the "Movie that Never Was"..you can find some stuff on Youtube about it. A well know Hollywood director was in the process of collaborating on a huge project to bring the book to the screen back in the early days of film. Unfortunately, Merle Oberon was in a car accident; so the entire project was abandoned and shelved. It would have been right up there with JC with Brandon. This earlier "I Claudius" starred the amazing talent of Charles Laughton. It's a pity the project was abandoned. The cuts I did see were captivating.

Has anyone seen the newer verion of "The Merchant of Venice" starring Al Pacino as the Jewish money lender? I think it worthy seeing; although, I have some qualms with some parts of the film. I felt it was still quite good. The Olivier version is interesting as well; but the casting of his wife, Joan Plowright, seemed a bit off to me; I don't consider her any great beauty. The Olivier "King Lear" is pretty incredible. I have seen that several times now. It's very exhausting to watch, because it's a very intense production. An entirely engrossing and entertaining film, hard to come by though; (I had to settle for VHS) is "Finding Richard" with Al Pacino. He goes through the streets of NYC asking people what they think of Shakespeare - some of the replies are really funny, very amusing. He also discusses the play with a producer/director and parts are enacted in costume throughout of "Richard III", with Pacino playing the complex/villanous character. He is quite good. It's a shame they did not produce a full length version or production of just the play. They later put the play on in Central Park, NYC...but one does't really see that part or the finished product. Still the whole documentary is exceedingly interesting. I happen to love "Richard III" and have a version with Kenneth Branagh starring as Richard on CD set....think it's Arkangel or Naxos. I highly recommend that, too. I have here, also on loan, the BBC version of all the Shakespeare Histories. So far I have only watched the first one, "Richard II". Derek Jacobi starred as Richard and his performance was wonderful. I saw bits of "Richard III" on Youtube and it was good. I am anxious to see that version (BBC) soon, but first I must get throught the Henry plays. I think I will start those this week.

I will think of more productions I have seen or own. I am trying to build up an entire collection of Shakespeare - both audio and visual.

breeze
08-03-2009, 06:47 AM
Ah, and I forgot about that guy who played Fool im Kurosawa`s Ran.

Janine
08-03-2009, 02:55 PM
A time back Sophia and I started a thread called "Shakespeare Stage and Screen Picutures"...

You might want to check it out and add more photos of productions which you favor. Unfortunately, some photos have disappeared; but if any of mine are absent, I will add them back in soon. I would love to see this thread be revived and continue and there be more contributions to it.

http://www.online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?t=36040

islandclimber
08-03-2009, 03:32 PM
I love Branagh, Olivier, Gielgud... Helena Bonham Carter is pretty good... Welles was alright.. there are a couple Shakespeare productions from the 1930s that were quite good though I cannot recall the names of the actors.. I quite enjoyed the recent version of Twelfth Night as Richard E. Grant as Sir Andrew Aguechek was fantastic, and so were Imogen Stubbs as Viola, Nigel hawthorne as Malvolio, and Mel Smith as Sir Toby (although the best malvolio I've seen was Alec Guiness in the 1969 version)... my favourite film portrayal of a Shakespeare character was Michael Keaton suprisingly enough as Dogberry in Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. absolutely hysterical haha..

I've seen quite a few good actors and actresses at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as well...

Janine
08-03-2009, 04:31 PM
I love Branagh, Olivier, Gielgud... Helena Bonham Carter is pretty good... Welles was alright.. there are a couple Shakespeare productions from the 1930s that were quite good though I cannot recall the names of the actors.. I quite enjoyed the recent version of Twelfth Night as Richard E. Grant as Sir Andrew Aguechek was fantastic, and so were Imogen Stubbs as Viola, Nigel hawthorne as Malvolio, and Mel Smith as Sir Toby (although the best malvolio I've seen was Alec Guiness in the 1969 version)... my favourite film portrayal of a Shakespeare character was Michael Keaton suprisingly enough as Dogberry in Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. absolutely hysterical haha..

I've seen quite a few good actors and actresses at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as well...

islandclimber, hi...been awhile...you might consider joining our social group for Branagh fans...'Ken's Friends'...we learn a lot about the actor and his latest pursuits, which are many and as ambitious as ever. Wish he would do some more Shakespeare; but, hope he can appear in it, as well, as direct. His last Shakespeare pursuit I believe was "As You Like it". I own the film; but only watched it a few times. I don't think it got very much attention. It's good, but missing one vital part - Branagh!

It is funny and surprising you should mention Dogberry played by Michael Keaton. I know most people didn't really get into his humor in that film. I found it a little over-the-top at times; but he was pretty good and he was suppose to depict a despicable character; that he did! I didn't at first get the clomping...duh... Then it dawned on me; it was suppose to be a take-off of the Monty Python Grail bit, with horses hooves and no horses, right? I thought the funniest part when he insists they all call him an azz.

The weakest part of the movie, "Much Ado About Nothing", to me was Keanu Reeves horrid flat performance; but I can overlook that one flaw. Otherwise, it's a cool film.

The version of "Twelfth Night" you mention is quite good, I think. I am a big fan of Richard E. Grant and Helena, too. I should watch that one again soon.

Drkshadow03
08-03-2009, 04:38 PM
my favourite film portrayal of a Shakespeare character was Michael Keaton suprisingly enough as Dogberry in Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. absolutely hysterical haha..


Wait, are you saying Keanu Reeves isn't your favorite Shakespeare actor?! :eek:

prendrelemick
08-03-2009, 05:41 PM
I have never forgotten Ian Mackellens Iago, I can't even remember who else was in it. He stole every scene he was in.

Also Olivia Hussy, young, sexy ,girlish was the perfect juliet.

John Guilgud's Prospero, he had the perfect voice.

Kenneth Branagh's delivery is so natural and easy even I can understand it.

*Classic*Charm*
08-03-2009, 08:51 PM
Hold on! How can it possibly be that no one has listed Leonardo DiCaprio as their favourite Shakespearean actor?:eek2::eek2:




Ugh that's not even funny as a joke. :sick:

Mathor
08-03-2009, 08:55 PM
William Shatner. HAHAHA.

JuniperWoolf
08-03-2009, 09:02 PM
Say what you want about the 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet, Pete Postlethwaite made a great Friar Lawrence.

*Classic*Charm*
08-03-2009, 09:05 PM
Say what you want about the 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet, Pete Postlethwaite made a great Friar Lawrence.

I actually really like certain aspects of that version of Romeo and Juliet (:blush:) just not Leo haha.

ktm5124
08-03-2009, 09:11 PM
I loved Olivia Hussey's acting as Juliet, though I wasn't so impressed by Leonard Whiting's performance. Seemed kind of flat. Blown away by Olivia Hussey, though.

Janine
08-03-2009, 10:22 PM
Wait, are you saying Keanu Reeves isn't your favorite Shakespeare actor?! :eek:

hahaha....something like that......:nod: indeed! Is he anyones?...eeekkk...

Janine
08-03-2009, 10:27 PM
Hold on! How can it possibly be that no one has listed Leonardo DiCaprio as their favourite Shakespearean actor?:eek2::eek2:

eeekkkk is right!!!!


Ugh that's not even funny as a joke. :sick: No, *Classic*, not funny at all....personally, I hated that production. Baz L's other film "Moulin Rouge" I enjoyed, but he went off the deep end producing R&J with street gangs - sorry doesn't work for me. eeek is right....DiCaprio can't do Shakespeare...

Quote by Mathor

William Shatner. HAHAHA.

Mathor, please don't break it to me that he played a Shakespeare roll...double ekkk...

*Classic*Charm*
08-04-2009, 12:14 AM
No, *Classic*, not funny at all....personally, I hated that production. Baz L's other film "Moulin Rouge" I enjoyed, but he went off the deep end producing R&J with street gangs - sorry doesn't work for me. eeek is right....DiCaprio can't do Shakespeare...

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the play, but for some reason I like that film version. Maybe just because it's so different and Luhrman always puts on a good show with the cinematography. I just imagine someone better playing Romeo when I watch it :D

Oh, and Janine! It looks like the King Lear project I told you about ages ago has either been put on hold or abandoned altogether! And that film was going to make my life complete!! For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about: Anthony Hopkins reprising his stage role as King Lear on film!!!!!

JWHooper
08-04-2009, 12:18 AM
I would say that my favorite Shakespearean actor is Michael Phelps. He has swim in order to win the gold for the help of Hamlet, but since Hamlet didn't knew how to swim, he went to sword fighting for his hobby with his boyfriend, Edgar Allen Poe.