Denzel Washington portrays one of William Shakespeare’s most famous characters in “The Tragedy of Macbeth”, a new adaptation of the 400-year-old play the Oscar winning actor says he had never seen staged before.
The Hollywood star plays the titular role in Joel Coen’s black and white film version of the tragedy about a Scottish general who, spurred on by his wife, commits murder to access the throne.
Fellow Oscar winner Frances McDormand plays Lady Macbeth in the stage-like movie.
“It just so happens as fate would have it I’ve never seen it. I wasn’t avoiding it. I just hadn’t seen it,” Washington told Reuters in an interview.
“I was fortunate in that Joel and Fran and myself got together close to a year out from shooting and we started reading scenes together. We got to get into the material and ask questions and bounce off of each other and act a little bit and see how we all work together.”
From Peter O’Toole and Ian McKellen to James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, a long list of actors have played the lead in “Macbeth”, which is believed to have been first performed in the early 1600s.
“That’s pressure, huh? Can you imagine that – someone walks up (and says) ‘Look, it’s been a great play for 400 years. Don’t mess it up. Good luck,” Washington, who previously starred in a production of Shakespeare’s “Othello”, joked.
“I didn’t feel that pressure. It was going to be a good play, whether I messed it up or not. It’ll continue to be and it’s open to interpretation. That’s the great thing about Shakespeare … it’s been done every which way you can. So this was Joel’s idea.”
Known as “The Scottish Play”, “Macbeth” is surrounded by superstition, something Washington said he “didn’t pay much attention to”.
“The list is too long … Every day there’s another thing you’re not supposed to do or something.”
“The Tragedy of Macbeth”, which has won rave reviews from critics, is released on Apple TV+ on Friday.
(Reporting by Rollo Ross; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Angus MacSwan)