Created by: Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Kenneth Branagh
Produced by: David Barron
Other cast: Kenneth Branagh, Julie Christie, Billy Crystal, Gérard Depardieu, Charlton Heston, Derek Jacobi, Jack Lemmon, Rufus Sewell, Robin Williams
Release date: December 25, 1996
Running time: 242 minutes
Hamlet (Sir Kenneth Branagh), son of the King of Denmark (Brian Blessed), is summoned home for his father's funeral and his mother Gertrude's (Julie Christie's) wedding to his uncle Claudius (Sir Derek Jacobi). In a supernatural episode, he discovers that his uncle, who he hates anyway, murdered his father. In an incredibly convoluted plot, the most complicated and most interesting in all literature, he manages to (impossible to put this in exact order) feign (or perhaps not to feign) madness, murder the "Prime Minister", love and then unlove an innocent who he drives to madness, plot and then unplot against the uncle, direct a play within a play, successfully conspire against the lives of two well-meaning friends, and finally take his revenge on the uncle, but only at the cost of almost every life on-stage, including his own and his mother's.
Kate Winslet (Ophelia) learned on the day that she had to shoot the straitjacket scene that she had just been given the role of Rose in Titanic (1997).
Robin Williams and Billy Crystal were not allowed to be on the set at the same time during filming, for fear they would crack up the cast and crew, and cause major production delays.
At four hours and two minutes, this is one of the longest Hollywood movies of all time.
The first full-length movie version of Hamlet ever made (using the Second Quarto (1604) text with additions from the First Folio (1623) to create an idealized “complete” Hamlet).
Kate Winslet did not even audition for the role of Ophelia. Winslet had previously auditioned for the role of Elizabeth in Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) (the role ended up being played by Helena Bonham Carter), and Branagh was so impressed that he offered her the role in this movie without so much as a reading. Appropriately, Carter played Ophelia in Hamlet (1990).
Writer and director Sir Kenneth Branagh’s decision to shoot in 65mm was largely inspired by a film format seminar conducted by visual consultant Rob Hummel. Hummel convinced him to use the format because of high-resolution and certain shots could only be achieved in 65mm. Also, Branagh once said that the intention was to give a sweeping feel to the play, hearkening back to the 1960s epics like Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
When Ophelia sings the famous “And will a not come again…” speech, Kate Winslet is singing a tune composed by Patrick Doyle specifically for that scene. The melody occurs in the score in several of Ophelia’s scenes, foreshadowing her madness and death.