It's a wonder Shakespeare didn't invent the word "meme", because he created numerous ones with long overused phrases, plots, and historical figures. Out of his history plays, Richard III may be the one that's been the most exaggerated, yet created a lasting fictitious persona. Just mentioning the name Richard III forever conjures the classic image of Laurence Olivier playing the morose King with a nefarious countenance, a Quasimodo-like hunchback, and large, hooked nose.
However, if you've ever done a Google Image search of Richard III, you'll see he didn't look anywhere close to the Shakespeare and Olivier personas so endlessly copied since. Based on reliable paintings, his nose wasn't large, his hunch wasn't that pronounced, and he didn't project a visage of evil so set in our collective memory. A Richard III Society even exists that's long set out to repair the King's sullied reputation.
They haven't really succeeded so far in fixing the vision in movies. Even in more recent years, the fictional takes on Richard III are being set in more present times where they still borrow from Shakespeare's original play. There hasn't been a non-Shakespeare cinematic portrayal of Richard III in well over 50 years.
But if Hollywood goes back and revisits Richard III, does it have to be a remake of Shakespeare or sideline adaptations? If someone wanted to make it more marketable within the underutilized genre of historical horror, a remake of "Tower of London" would be one way to provide a new take on whether Richard III really was behind the killing of his two nephew princes. With Basil Rathbone in the original 1939 role looking much closer to how the real King looked, a new production has a guide to aspire to without grotesque makeup.
Regardless, most people may remember the Vincent Price remake in 1962 better than the 1939 film. In the former, it was a return to the sinister portrayal with Price assimilating the Olivier persona all the way to the bank. Any exception would be one adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Black Arrow" where we see Richard III as a young and innocent Richard Plantagenet, long before becoming King.
Now with Richard III's remains exhumed and successfully identified, it's time for a new cinematic account of his life and death on the battlefield without Shakespearean embellishments. Most of all, the timing is right with movies now being so adamant in showing the other side of the ethical argument on long reviled historical figures. Rather than a caricature, a new exploration should show how Richard III was a victim of historical circumstance in why certain people in his orbit died.
Movies have already done that with other political figures such as "Nixon" (and "Frost/Nixon"). In the cases of President Nixon, audiences were reminded how particular political climates change reality and blur lines toward what's right and wrong. As well, those in charge don't necessarily have a direct line in instigating nefarious events when so many others in the inner circle do the dirty work.
Movies have yet to dig deep into the world of England in the 1400s where Richard III can be seen to be a victim of being in the wrong place and time. With movie penchant for graphic violence, vividly depicting how that all ends in the battle of Bosworth Field would make a non-biased movie version of the King stand alone above Shakespeare.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Laurence Olivier