Iain Canning won an Oscar for producing the 2010 Best Picture champ “The King’s Speech,” which chronicled a trying time in the life of King George VI in the early days of World War II. His new film “Macbeth” recounts the fabled story of a king who ruled Scotland at the start of the last millennium that inspired Shakespeare to write this tragedy four centuries later.
As Canning reveals during a recent conversation (listen below), with acclaimed adaptations of this play having been done already by filmmakers as diverse as Roman Polanski, Akira Kurosawa and Orson Welles, the challenge was to find a unique approach. “In terms of storytelling, we were really attracted by the idea of this post-traumatic-stress-disorder aspect of it. ”You layer in the things that are going to be important in terms of the contemporary retelling, not in the sense that it’s a contemporary set piece, but more in terms of what’s going to resonate with a contemporary audience.”
Directed by Justin Kurzel, the film stars Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender (“12 Years a Slave”) as the power-hungry Scottish warrior and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”) as his conniving wife. “We really wanted to get into Macbeth’s head,” reveals Canning about the director’s intimate approach. “Throughout the film, you’re definitely being pulled into the mind-set of those two lead characters, and I think that feels more contemporary, rather than feeling like it’s a theatrical cast bringing you the play shot on film.”
This meant finding the right actor to take on the renowned role and Fassbender was the only choice. “He’s got an incredible intensity,” explains Canning, “and the Shakespeare sort of bubbles through him like he was born to play that role. We couldn’t really see it being so centered and so emotionally complex with anyone else.”
The filmmakers also wanted to explore a Lady Macbeth that wasn’t, “a cliche, power-driven, obsessive wife that was controlling her man and making him do terrible things. We wanted to add an emotional through-line for that character.” Despite her obvious talent, casting Oscar-winner Cotillard was a huge risk considering the source material. “She’s a French actress, she’s worked in the English language, but this is verse.” However, says Canning, “I just think there’s such an emotional truth to Marion in the way she takes on roles, we just had to be brave enough to say she was going to be the right person to play that part.”
Listen to our full interview below for more on the making of “Macbeth,” which will be released in select cities on December 4 by the Weinstein Company.