Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet which opened in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto Dec. 26, did well enough that it opened in 19 more cities Jan. 24, and will open in an additional 19 or 20 cities on Feb. 14, according to Castle Rock Entertainment.
The film, which features the likes of Jack Lemmon, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in cameo roles, opens this weekend in San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Pasadena, Seattle, Vancouver, Denver, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston, Montreal, Stamford (CT) and several suburban NY locations.
Branagh, who has made a career of doing first-class filmizations of Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing, et al), has directed and stars in the title role of the film. He's also taken the credit "screenwriter," with the Bard relegated to "based upon the play by."
This indicates that Branagh has taken some liberties including, reportedly, a scene showing Yorick the jester when he was alive. It's Yorick's skull that Hamlet so famously brandishes during the "Alas, poor Yorick" speech.
Branagh has packed the cast with stars, even in minuscule roles. For instance, John Gielgud, who, in the 1930s, created perhaps the definitive Hamlet of the 20th century, has a cameo as Priam. Here is the cast: Gerard Depardieu (Reynaldo); Billy Crystal (First Gravedigger; Robin Williams (Osric); Jack Lemmon (Marcellus); Richard Briers (Polonius); Julie Christie (Gertrude); Kate Winslet (Ophelia); Brian Blessed (Ghost/Old Hamlet); Charlton Heston (Player King); Rosemary Harris (Player Queen); Sir Richard Attenborough (English Ambassador); Judi Dench (Hecuba); Derek Jacobi (Claudius -- possibly an in-joke; he appeared in the TV series "I, Claudius").
The $18 million film was made by Castle Rock Entertainment and is being released Dec. 25 by Sony Pictures in New York and Los Angeles. It will open in cineplexes throughout the U.S. Jan. 24. The film is approximately four hours long, making it one of the longest U.S. films -- possibly the longest by some counts -- ever in general release.
Plans were announced to release the full version in big cities and a shorter version elsewhere, but those plans reportedly have been scrapped.
Alex Thomson is director of photography, Tim Harvey designed the film and Patrick Doyle wrote the musical score.
-- By Robert Viagas