Sony is holding a special screening of Roland Emmerich’s “Anonymous” tonight on the lot after bowing the film at Toronto last month. The occasion isn’t typical, though. Emmerich is on hand, along with entertainment attorney and author Bert Fields, to receive the Crystal Quill Award for contributions to the Shakespeare authorship debate.
“Anonymous,” of course, depicts the Oxfordian point of view, that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true author of William Shakespeare’s classic works. The film was actually met with a slightly more welcoming reaction at Toronto than I had originally anticipated.
You might recall I was a huge fan of the film when I saw it just before Telluride. “I think it”s [Emmerich’s] best work yet,” I wrote at the time. “[Screenwriter John] Orloff has spun a fascinating yarn, itself of near Shakespearean tragedy. It”s a complex interplay of relationships and motives, incest and politics that is ultimately about the power of the written word to change hearts and minds, the enduring nature of art and, above all, the integrity of an artist.”
Which makes me wonder — shouldn’t Mr. Orloff be receiving this attention? After all, this is his script, one that pretty much bottomed out in the wake of “Shakespeare in Love” and he waited over a decade to finally see someone translate it to the screen. By all means, let’s give Emmerich a big pat on the back for his work here, but Orloff is barely mentioned once in passing in the press release. And even that is a perfunctory “the film was written by” notation in the synopsis of the film. Screenwriters. It was ever thus.
Anyway, I still stand by my assessment of the film. The more I think about “Anonymous,” the more I feel like it’s one of the year’s very best. It stands a fair shot at receiving awards attention, I think, and could be a stealthy player in this year’s race. I’m still holding out hope that Rhys Ifans can get a leg up for his lead actor performance with at least a notice here or there. It’s stellar work.
Of course, Sony has an embarrassment of riches this year, so who knows which way the wind will blow for them?
Crystal Quill, by the way, is “a high profile event that celebrates the importance of Arts Education by acknowledging Shakespearean actors, directors, scholars, and educators that inspire appreciation for Shakespeare through film, performance, and research that supports high quality arts learning experiences,” the mission reads. Recent honorees have included director Baz Luhrmann and producer Mark Gordon.
“Anonymous” hits theaters nationwide on Friday, October 28.