Anonymous (film)
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Produced by Roland Emmerich Larry J. Franco Robert Leger
Written by John Orloff
Starring Rhys IfansVanessa RedgraveJoely RichardsonDavid ThewlisXavier SamuelSebastian ArmestoRafe SpallEdward HoggJamie Campbell BowerDerek Jacobi
Music by Thomas WankerHarald Kloser
Cinematography Anna Foerster
Editing by Peter R. Adam
Studio Relativity MediaCentropolis EntertainmentStudio Babelsberg
Distributed by Columbia Pictures (US)Entertainment Film Distributors (UK)
Release date(s) September 30, 2011 (2011-09-30)
Country United States Germany United Kingdom
Language English


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Anonymous (film)

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Theatrical release poster

Anonymous is an upcoming historical thriller directed by Roland Emmerich. It stars Rhys Ifans and Vanessa Redgrave. It will be released theatrically in the United States on 30 September 2011. It is produced by Centropolis Entertainment and Studio Babelsberg, and distributed by Columbia Pictures.


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In Elizabethan England, political intrigue abounds between the Tudors and the Cecils for the succession of Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave), as the Essex Rebellion moves against her. The film follows the involvement of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), as not only the incestuous lover of Queen Elizabeth, but also the true author of the works of William Shakespeare.


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  • Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I. Redgrave commented that "It’s very interesting, the fractures, in this extraordinary creature.... I only hope that I've been able to respond to Roland in this script sufficiently to be able to just give a little glimpse of this fracturing, this black hole, with shafts of brief sunlight."
  • Rhys Ifans as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford / "William Shake-speare"
  • Jamie Campbell Bower as young Oxford
  • David Thewlis as William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, longtime adviser to Queen Elizabeth. De Vere came to live in his household as a ward of the Queen at age 12 and became Burghley's son-in-law at age 21. Burghley is thought to have inspired the character Polonius.
  • Edward Hogg as Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, William Cecil's son and successor
  • Joely Richardson as young Princess Elizabeth
  • Xavier Samuel as Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, Shake-speare dedicatee and the focus of his sonnets; prospective suitor to Cecil's granddaughter Elizabeth de Vere
  • Rafe Spall as William Shakspere of Stratford
  • Antje Thiele as Lady de Vere
  • Robert Emms as Thomas Dekker, dramatist
  • Tony Way as Thomas Nashe, poet and satirist
  • Sebastian Armesto as Ben Jonson, poet, First Folio editor, and friend of Susan de Vere
  • Trystan Gravelle as Christopher Marlowe, poet and dramatist
  • Sebastian Reid as Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, executed for treason
  • Mark Rylance as a Shakespearean actor at the Globe Theatre
  • Sir Derek Jacobi as Narrator (Prologue)


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Screenwriter John Orloff had penned the script back in the late 1990s, but it was shelved after Shakespeare in Love came out in 1998. It was almost greenlit as "The Soul of the Age" for a 2005 release, with a budget of $30 to $35 million. However, the financing proved to be "a risky undertaking," director Roland Emmerich told Screen Daily at the time. In October 2009, Emmerich stated, "It's very hard to make get a movie like this made, and I want to make it in a certain way. I've actually had this project for 8 years. It's always supposed to be my next movie, but this time I'm really going to do it because I'm already set to shoot on March 22 ."

In a November 2009 interview, Emmerich said of the film:

At a press conference at Studio Babelsberg on April 29, 2010, Emmerich noted that the success of his more commercial films made this one possible and that he got the cast he wanted without the pressure to come up with at least two A-list American actors.

Elizabethan London was recreated for the film with more than 70 painstakingly hand-built sets at Studio Babelsberg. These include a full-scale replica of London’s imposing The Rose theatre. The remainder of the Elizabethan setting was created and enhanced via CGI.

The film is the first major motion picture to be shot with Arriflex's new Alexa camera, a competitor to the RED One.[citation needed]


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In response to news that the film was in production, James Shapiro, Columbia University English professor and author of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, wrote an April 11, 2010 op-ed article in the Los Angeles Times titled "Alas, Poor Shakespeare." He acknowledged recent popular support for Oxfordian theory, including three Supreme Court Justices quoted in a 2009 Wall Street Journal article. Shapiro said that 25 years ago, support for Oxfordian theory was not strong, and that in a celebrated moot court in 1987, Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens, Harry Blackmun and William Brennan had "ruled unanimously in favor of Shakespeare and against the Earl of Oxford." Shapiro asserted that "Emmerich's film is one more sign that conspiracy theories about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays have gone mainstream," and also against Anonymous in an April 2010 Wall Street Journal interview.

Screenwriter John Orloff's published response in the same newspaper noted that "Shapiro has, at best, oversimplified the facts," and quoted U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens as saying in 1987: "'I have lingering concerns.... You can’t help but have these gnawing doubts that this great author may perhaps have been someone else.... I would tend to draw the inference that the author of these plays was a nobleman.... There is a high probability that it was Edward de Vere [the Earl of Oxford].'"

On the other hand, Orloff can be accused of deceitful editing. For example, he claims Justice Stevens said, "There is a high probability it was Edward de Vere." Orloff's quote strongly implies that Stevens thought that de Vere was the actual author of Shakespeare's works. However, in the full quote, Stevens actually said, "And I would say, also--perhaps departing from my colleagues--that I am persuaded that, if the author was not the man from Stratford, then there is a high probability that it was Edward de Vere."

In a June 2010 post-filming interview with the Washington Post, Derek Jacobi, who plays the Narrator of Anonymous, noted that he is not neutral in the Shakespeare authorship debate. "I'm on the side of those who do not believe that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the plays. I think the name was a pseudonym, certainly. [Anonymous] puts the authorship question firmly and squarely on the big screen. It's a very risky thing to do, and obviously the orthodox Stratfordians are going to be apoplectic with rage."

See also

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  • Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship
  • Shakespeare authorship question
  • Prince Tudor theory


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