For my money, Julie Taymor is one of the most interesting directors working in film today. All three of her films – Titus, Frida and Across The Universe – are stunning visual canvases on which their stories play out. Now, she is tackling Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but putting a twist on the Bard by making the conjurer of the titular storm not a man, but a woman, specifically Helen Mirren. And below we get our first look at her in the film via USA Today. (Click on the picture for a higher res version.)
In the original, Prospero was a Duke of Milan who paid so much attention to the study of the magical arts that he fails to notice when his brother usurps his power, setting him and his infant daughter adrift in a boat to perish. Instead, they wash ashore a deserted island, where, nearly 20 years later Prospero has a chance to regain his position when he conjures a magical storm that shipwrecks his brother on the island.
Taymor is very familiar with the play, having staged it twice before. It has also been adapted to film numerous times including a science fiction variant (1956’s Forbidden Planet), most recently by Peter Greenaway in 1991’s Prospero’s Books. Ironically, John Gielgud played Prospero in that last film and Mirren will be playing another gender-swapped role that Gielgud originated in the upcoming remake of the comedy Arthur.
The Tempest will sweep in to theaters in December.