Sharing the screen with two of the world”s most renown actors can be intimidating. It”s especially intimidating when the project is a Shakespeare adaptation and the two actors have delivered some of the most well-regarded modern performances of the Bard”s work.
That”s the situation Lynn Collins found herself in when she played Portia in the 2004 film adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. The actress, who has since gone on to appear in movies like John Carter and TV shows like True Blood, starred in Merchant opposite Al Pacino”s Shylock and Jeremy Irons” Antonio.
Collins came to the project with plenty of Shakespeare cred herself, having taking on the Bard”s works onstage several times both professionally and as a student at Juilliard. But when it came time to film the crucial trial scene, a shining moment for Portia, one of Shakespeare”s greatest heroines, “I was so nervous because I knew how important this was,” Collins recalled.
In this scene, Portia, disguised as a male law clerk, saves the life of Antonio, her husband”s friend. Antonio had agreed to give Shylock a pound of his flesh if he did not repay a loan to the moneylender on time. The scene is most memorable for Portia”s plea to Shylock to not seek justice but be merciful to Antonio: “The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
Watch the video below for Collins” story of how Pacino supported her through her nerves while filming that scene:
Collins spoke with HitFix for our video celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare. Below, check out the flagship video in the series for actors” reflections on the Bard”s influence on their own lives and on the world. And check out intimate readings of passages from Shakespeare”s plays from Collins, Liev Schreiber, Fran Kranz, and others here.