Talk about an unexpected plot twist! In the upcoming period piece All Is True: Kenneth Branagh plays William Shakespeare and Judi Dench plays his wife. The film, due to hit screens December 21, is generating Oscar buzz, but the bigger news is the generation gap between the two leads. He’s 57 and she’s 83—you do the math.
So is the odd coupling of All Is True a fluke, or does it represent the age equivalent of colorblind casting?
Yes, the bard’s real-life wife, Anne Hathaway, was an older woman—but a mere eight years her husband’s senior. So is the odd coupling of All Is True a fluke, or does it represent the age equivalent of colorblind casting?
Industry insiders believe it’s neither, noting that the pair-up is probably a matter of smart financing. “While Sony Pictures Classics is releasing the film, it was an independent production, so I would assume that to raise the money to make it, they had to get the biggest stars they could,” says Gregory Ellwood, a critic for ThePlaylist.net. “And in the art-house world, Judi Dench is pure box-office gold.”
What’s more, the action takes place in 1613 and focuses on the celebrated playwright later in life. London’s Globe Theatre has burned to the ground and Shakespeare returns to his hometown of Stratford, where neglected wife Anne has been holding down the fort. With the right makeup, an actor of Branagh’s ability should be able to pull it off (where there’s a Will, there’s a way).
As for Dench, she’s pretty much done it all in her nearly 60-year career, from Shakespeare proper (Hecuba in the Branagh-directed Hamlet from 1996) and winning an Oscar for her depiction of Queen Elizabeth in 1998’s Shakespeare in Love, to taking over the formerly male role of M in the James Bond flicks. A convincing portrayal of a wife when in fact she could be her leading man’s mom? No problem!
“I think it’s awesome that Judi Dench has the chance to play this role, which otherwise might have gone to an actress in her 50s,” says Ellwood. Or perhaps Shakespeare put it best: “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come!”