Disaster blockbuster director Roland Emmerich is sure to rile fans of Shakespeare with his latest movie, "Anonymous," for questioning the lionized bard’s authorship of preeminent plays.
Theories abound. Some point to Shakespeare’s famed contemporaries Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe as the real authors.
The film "Anonymous," which premiered on Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival, focuses on Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, as likely having written "Hamlet," "Macbeth," "Romeo and Juliet" and other great works, as well as the best-known soliloquy, "To be or not to be, that is the question."
"I can’t lie. I’m not necessarily convinced that Oxford is the author of these plays," said actor Rhys Ifans of the Earl of Oxford, the character he plays in the film. "But I’m definitely absolutely adamant that it was not a guy called William Shakespeare from Stratford."
His verdict was seconded by his co-stars and German director Roland Emmerich, better known for his explosive blockbusters "Independence Day" (1996), "Godzilla" (1998), "The Day After Tomorrow" (2004) and "2012" (2009).
"That’s why everybody in the Stratfordian side is so pissed off because we’ve called them on their lies," said Emmerich.
None of the cast had trepidations about doing the film portraying the bard as a fraud, or worried about reactions from fellow thespians, they told a press conference.
"I haven’t encountered any flack from anyone, although people are very passionate about it," admitted Rafe Spall, who plays Shakespeare as "Fakespeare" in the movie.
The historical thriller weaves the question into the story of the Essex Rebellion in the 17th century court of Elizabeth I.
It also stars Joely Richardson as a young Elizabeth I, and her mother Vanessa Redgrave, who takes over the role in the monarch’s later years, as well as Jamie Campbell Bower and Xavier Samuel.
Emmerich conceded that he did not actually enjoy Shakespeare as required reading in school, and none of it stuck. What he knows of the bard now he says he gleaned from movies.
"I didn’t love Shakespeare or any other author of plays in school," he said. "It was later in life when I saw films made after Shakespeare when I realized, ‘Wow, this guy can tell a story."
"I used films to educate myself about William Shakespeare. There are three or four Hamlet movies (for example)."
But "the older I get, I can appreciate theater. It’s strange for me because now I look forward to seeing plays."