Denzel Washington: ‘Doing Shakespeare was about embracing a dream’

Speaking about his title role in “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Denzel Washington recently revealed what he learned about the tragic Shakespearean figure during a Q&A moderated by Joel Rothkopf.

“I’ve heard about interpretations of him losing his mind, but to become king, he voluntarily lost his soul,” Washington said.

The film directed and adapted by Joel Coen may not immediately strike movie-goers as  typical Coen fare, being visually and artistically surreal, but Washington believes that there’s a timeliness about the material that feeds any misconceptions.

“Shakespeare, the genius that he was, prefigured so many things in drama and tropes of 20th century crime fiction,” he adds. “So this is a murder story. It’s about a couple plotting a murder. But of, course, it’s so much bigger than that.”

“There’s really great sense of almost an abstraction to this Macbeth,” Rothkopf observes.

“The design of the movie was rhythm, both in the play because it’s there in the meter of the text,” Washington replies. “There’s a rhythm we wanted to give to the soundtrack, which was Denzel’s footsteps walking down that hallway toward the door and he’s going to murder the king. There’s the rhythm of light, and all those rhythms kind of repeat. Doing Shakespeare wasn’t about realism in any way. It was about embracing it as a dream.”

“We weren’t trying to make a story about Scotland,” costar Frances McDormand (Lady Macbeth) interjects. “We weren’t trying to make a political point. It was a movie about a marriage and a couple at the end of their ambition rather than at the beginning.”

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