When the script for Hamlet came across my desk, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Never before had dialog, plot, theme, and sexual punning been so masterfully mixed and cooked into something entertaining. I looked at the writer’s name, William Shakespeare, and thought, Wow! It takes some big balls to name yourself after THE William Shakespeare, but when you write a script as good as Hamlet, I guess you’ve earned it!
The story itself is pretty complex. There’s this guy named Hamlet. He gets killed by his brother, Claudius. Claudius marries Hamlet’s wife, Gertrude. Hamlet comes back as a ghost and demands that his son, Hamlet 2, revenge his death by killing Claudius. Hamlet 2 doesn’t want to. He can’t make himself kill anything until he’s figured out exactly what it means to die. Also, he has a crush on his mom. Eventually, everyone shuffles off this mortal coil, returning even the mightiest of them to noble dust which may someday stop a bunghole.
Casting this film was difficult because with dialog this good only British people or those pretending to be British people can correctly speak the speech. Since American audiences reject European superiority/wimpyness, I had to fill lesser roles with cheap but attractive American has-beens. Therefore: Chuck Heston. Also Robin Williams plays a fop, Billy Crystal is the gravedigger, Bruce Vilanch is Falstaff, and Whoopie Goldberg tickles the ivory keys as Othellette.
For Hamlet 2 role, there was no way around a British actor. Unfortunately, I chose Kenneth Brenneth, a guy I will never work with again if only because the bottom-half of his face is exhausting to look at. Seriously, he’s like Chapter One of a “How to Read Lips” textbook. I have never seen someone have to work so goddamn hard to enunciate.
Brenneth started pissing me off on day one. He showed up on set with a goatee, puffy pants, and a cardboard director’s megaphone and immediately fired Phyllis Diller and Jerry Stiller when I wasn’t looking. At first I couldn’t control him because Kenneth Brenneth will not hear you until you refer to him as “Dame Kenneth Brenneth”.
He’s also a natural born leader of losers. By the end of the first week of shooting, Brenneth and his ilk (Brits) refused to be in the same room as any American actors, kind of a snobs vs. slobs thing. Any scenes with mixed company was shot and edited into cohesion later, a real pain in my ass. To get back at him for this bullshit, I had the CG guys give him that funny mustache and gray hair. Yes, I will make my own films look silly in the name of revenge. Do not fuck with Sam Strange, actors!
Anyway, despite the difficulties, Hamlet made its money back, and I’m thankful. Hamlet is simply not a normal film. For one thing, it’s over four hours long. For another, it’s set in the 1800’s but it’s not a Western. Really the only thing it’s got going for it is the great dialog and awesome hardcore sex.