Exclusive photos: Fran Kranz, Hamish Linklater in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
Hollywood, the Dream Factory, is the apt setting for the latest cinematic update on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The new vision of one of the Bard’s greatest comedies is set in present-day Hollywood, a place where glamorous stars, commanding moguls, starving artists, and vaulting pretenders all vie to get ahead. The Athenians are Hollywood glitterati, the mechanicals (Bottom and his troupe of wannabe actors) are film students, and the fairies of the forest are hippies in Topanga Canyon, nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains just east of Malibu.
Staging or filming a Shakespeare project four centuries after the incomparable playwright lived and after countless artists have already mounted productions of his plays poses several challenges. (Yes, really four centuries, by the way — last month marked 400 years since the Bard’s death.) Among those challenges: delivering a fresh interpretation that resonates with modern audiences while staying true to Shakespeare’s text.
Director Casey Wilder Mott set out to do that by placing his Midsummer Night’s Dream in Los Angeles — in stark contrast to the Midsummers that have come before that kept the rustic tale in a pastoral setting — while determining that transporting the play to the City of Angels was an appropriate fit.
“L.A.’s a very dreamy place, and the movie business is a very dreamy sort of experience,” Mott told HitFix. “It's very bizarre to go to a movie on a Saturday night and walk out and go down the street for dinner and see someone you just saw on the screen eating dinner at the table next to you. There’s something that’s very dreamy about that.”
At one point in the play, Demetrius says, “Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream.” Mott said that’s his favorite line in the play and guided him to focus on exploring the boundary between what’s real and what’s imagined in the setting of Los Angeles.
In the film, taking on the iconic comedic role of Bottom is Kranz, known to Whedonverse fans for his roles in Dollhouse and The Cabin in the Woods and Joss Whedon’s acclaimed film update of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Below, you can watch Kranz in a HitFix video interview talk more about the cast and vision of this Midsummer. Kranz is also featured in HitFix’s video project celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare.
Kranz and Mott, both producers on the film, met as students at Yale University, where Mott studied with renown Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be the feature film directorial debut for Mott, who also wrote the screenplay for the project, using Shakespeare’s original text. His past work in Hollywood includes film finance, representation (at William Morris Agency), and script development at Flashlight Films, where he developed Clint Eastwood’s upcoming film Sully.
Fran Kranz as Bottom in the new film adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in a HitFix-exclusive photo. Image credit: 5B Productions
Angeleno Bardolaters, when you read about the film’s setting, you might have been asking the same question I was when I learned about the project: Was this filmed at Topanga’s Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum at all? Yes, it was, Mott tells me. A dirt path on the theater grounds serves as the precipice of the edge of the woods in the film.
That Topanga setting for the fairies’ forest also takes some influence from Mott’s home: He grew up in Point Arena, a small coastal California town known for being a hippie exodus destination. “In 1972, when the movement died, man, everyone went up to Point Arena,” as Mott explains it. “So when I came to L.A. and stumbled upon Topanga one day, it just instantly felt very familiar and very comfortable. The sort of hippie, artist, yoga, granola, whatever you wanna call it community is just as iconically associated with being and living in L.A. as the strivers and as the A-listers.”
Filmed this past November and December (yes, in Los Angeles winter can look like midsummer), the film features Linklater as Lysander and Lily Rabe as Helena. As Kranz notes, the duo are becoming “the new Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep of [New York’s] Shakespeare in the Park.” (Those who saw the 1999 Midsummer film will remember that Kline played Bottom in that film.)
Rachael Leigh Cook and Hamish Linklater in Midsummer, in a HitFix-exclusive photo. This scene was filmed on the bluffs at El Matador State Beach in Malibu. Image credit: 5B Productions
Cook plays Hermia, and in the role of Demetrius is Finn Whittrock. Playing Theseus is Ted Levine, best known as Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill, and at his side as Hippolyta will be Boardwalk Empire actress Paz de la Huerta. Puck is played by Avan Jogia, who starred in the titular role in Spike’s Tut miniseries last summer. Jogia as Robin Goodfellow is “this tatted up, gorgeous, young Johnny Depp-looking surfer dude,” Kranz said.
Supplying what Mott promises to be “a pulsing contemporary soundtrack” and also embodying the roles of fairy royalty are Saul Williams (Oberon) and Mia Doi Todd (Titania).
Mott’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is currently in post-production with a release expected later this year. On Monday next week, the production is launching a Kickstarter campaign that will help complete the film as Mott envisioned it.