Julie Taymor has rounded up a slew of Oscar favorites for her gender-bending take on William Shakespeare's "The Tempest."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, "The Queen" star Helen Mirren will duchess-turned-sorcerer Prospera in her new "Tempest," giving a different spin to the more familiar (and textually specific) lead Prospero.
Also joining the cast of the Miramax feature are Oscar winners Jeremy Irons and Geoffrey Rush and Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou, plus Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Ben Wishaw and Felicity Jones.
Bard-ophiles know that "The Tempest" focuses on Prospero (or "Prospera," we guess) and his/her daughter Miranda (Jones), who have been stranded on an island for 12 years. Her cohorts on the island include the deformed Caliban (Hounsou) and the rescued tree spirit Ariel (Wishaw). When Prospera summons a storm to shipwreck his brother Antonio and King Alonso (Irons) on the island, a combination of romance, comedy, political intrigue, spirituality and magic ensue.
Brand will play the jester Trinculo, Molina the butler Stephano and Rush is in negotiations to play Prosera's old ally Gonzalo.
While Taymor will doubtlessly get credit for taking all sorts of risks with her casting, the "Frida" and "Across the Universe" director is hardly the first person to play around with the gender roles in "The Tempest." A 2000 Globe Theatre production starring Vanessa Redgrave was just one of several efforts to position an actress at the center of the story.
Taymor plans to shoot her "Tempest" in Hawaii starting in November.