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June 13 2004

James Marsters New Project. According to this Slayerverse article, James Marsters has a budget of $50 million and will write and star in his own version of Shakespeare's Macbeth.


that's crazy. any chance of Juliet Landau as Lady Macbeth?

i am wary about this though because didn't they try to do a Macbeth movie about a year ago and it got cancelled? hope this fares better.
As a rabid fan of Shakespeare, Macbeth, Buffy, and James Marsters: I'm thrilled!
Macbeth has so much potential to be a good film (Kurosawa's Throne of Blood springs to mind), though not all attempts have been successful.

I imagine though, with James' skills and competencies, this could be a very worthwhile project. I'm very intrigued and very excited for him!
And again, there's nothing really new here. Second hand info from various convention reports. So take with a pinch of salt until official word comes through.
Ahem, wrong article.

Hmmm, not a Shakespeare fan, but that could be because my A Level English course has completely sucked any life out of studying Shakespeare.

Juliet Landau would be great as Lady Macbeth, if only to see her and James Marsters together again.

[ edited by Ghost Spike on 2004-06-13 16:49 ]
Sounds very fishy. A first time writer, who's also starring, having casting control on a $50M movie....

Writers are the lowest of the low in Hollywood, the boy who get's the directors coffee gets a better parking space, and that's if the writer is even allowed on set! And JM, much though we love him, isn't a big enough name to carry a movie of that budget. At this time his 'movie' resume consists of 'Camera guy who has three lines at the start of Haunted Hill and is never seen again'
I have a feeling that the $50 million figure has been misquoted. But that's just a feeling. There's not really enough info at the minute. Like which studio is involved, which other actors have signed on, is it a faithful adaptation or is it contemporary etc. I guess we will have to wait till an interview with James comes along.

And Ghost Spike I think you meant to post under the other article.
I thought JM wanted to produce it, not write it??
Due to bad acoustics, I couldn't hear much of *anything* at Moonlight Rising (where James reported that he had gotten the funding to produce Macbeth), but my roommmate with a front row seat also heard $50 million...I guess we'll have to wait and see.
I was at Moonlight Rising last weekend and James is the one who announced that he offically has the finacnicing for this film and it will taking up a lot of his time and the will adapted the play to film, as well as star and produce. I think he still hopes to get Joss to direct it as he has said in the past.

Also this is not a character unfamilier to him, from 1996 Seattle review...."Some thoroughly admirable poets are thoroughly detestable people, or so we often gather from memoirs written by great poets' significant others. This admirable/detestable dichotomy certainly applies to Shakespeare's greatest poet, Macbeth. Macbeth says absolutely gorgeous stuff. He is a fountain of incomparable poetry. He's also an assassin. He's a multiple assassin, actually, a serial assassin. One thing just leads to another. Macbeth is not an easy role for an actor: exquisite one moment, barbaric the next. Though I've seen a dozen or so productions of ``Macbeth,'' I've never seen anyone solve the Macbeth sensibility dilemma as neatly as James Marsters does in the current Seattle Shakespeare Festival production. In the title role, Marsters is obviously thinking all the time. He is passionate in a brooding way. He doesn't just babble the infinitely famous verses (``Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,'' ``My way of life is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf; and that which should accompany old age, as honor, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have'' and so on.) Marsters seems always to be searching for just the right word, slowly, painstakingly. It becomes a sort of decadence, as if Macbeth cares more about words than people ..... Marsters does an excellent job with a purely psychological tragedy .... Macbeth fans, however, may be disappointed in their effort to get tickets. Most performances are sold out. A Saturday matinee has been added, however, to accommodate the demand for seats."

I thought it was a mistake at first as well but then he repeated it a few times it is $50 million and in a way I can see why - most MacBeth production's fail when it comes to representing the witches which I think will require some special effects work and that does cost a pretty penny and now a days $50 million is barely above a shoe string for most films. He may be able to cut some cost as long as he films it outside the US. Perhaps New Zealand would be a good place to use for filming, money wise, talent wise, and location wise I think it would work better.

[ edited by RavenU on 2004-06-13 16:25 ]
Gonna be interesting to see no matter what. Looking forward to seeing how this turns out. Especially if Joss was to direct!

This will also be a great way for James to keep himself busy until ME get their asses in gear with Spike the Series, hehe!
As great as the project seems, James himself said playing Spike is better then any shakespear, I hope a opportunity isn't missed to playing Spike again if he's busy with this, so I can't celebrate. Actually quite sad, I would prefer DB, SMG, JM, to be out of roles, and hungrier for buffyverse films, tv spin offs, nothing else they will do will top it, as JM said to SMG.

These are vital years where any opportunity to play Spike should be done now, as James at 45 will probabley start looking older for the character, as great as he looks for his age, Boreanze on a time limit as well, he looks different in th e last 2 seasons of Angel then the buffy episodes he did.
I wouldn't want to wish them bad luck in their careers just so they would be eager to do more Buffy/Angel roles. Even if they aren't successful doesn't mean there will be an opportunity to do more from the Whedonverse. I'm wishing them all the best because they are a wonderfully talented group. I don't think they should be sitting at home and passing up other opportunities waiting for the phone to ring just in case an opportunity arises to play their Buffyverse characters again. That may never happen.
if thats true... well, would be pretty exciting and i would so be looking forward to it. and wow. if he's really gettin a 50 mill. dollar budget it could become quite a nice movie.
Um, he wouldn't have to write the script, actually, seeing as how it already exists (and Macbeth not being a long play, probably would need very little trimming). I guess they just mean he would do the adaptation for the screen.

Ghost Spike, I've heard your complaint (about English schools sucking all the life and joy out of Shakespeare). Too bad! I'm a product of the American public school system and went to a state university. Had Shakespeare from 7th through 12th grades and took 3 semester-long Shakespeare courses in college, and I'm an utter Shakespeare freak (my wife is too.)

If he does this, and I fervently hope that he does, I hope it will be better than Orson Welles's version, which did indeed suck all the life out of the play. In particular, the "Life's but a walking shadow" monologue...just dire.

OT, I always thought "The Walking Shadows" would be a great name for a new-wave band in the 80s...their debut album would have to have been called "Struttin' and Frettin'".

And I agree, Juliet Landau would make a splendid Lady Macbeth.

Final note: all of our 4 pets have Shakespearian names, the first two by accident, the others by design, and our Bernese/Golden Retriever/St. Bernard mix is named Macduff!
I'm with blwessels in that i wouldn't like the idea that these guys couldn't get other work, they really are a talented bunch of actors and deserve as diverse a career as they choose.

Whilst i really do believe that another slayer show will happen (concepts as interesting and popular as the slayerverse rarely disappear for long and this reality tv hell we are currently in will die a horrible death soon enough) i want to know that the actor or actors involved, be it James, Amy or whoever, are there because they really want to be and not because they couldn't get anything better.
I cannot see any studio putting $50M into a movie of this type with a first time writer/adaptor and a star without a movie track record. While I would love to see it, and I have Much Ado in my DVD collection, I just cannot see it getting, or needing, fifty big ones. Maybe $5 to $10 mill.
The smallest thing could make this fall through, so I wish nothing had been said until things were a bit further along in development, but I am absolutely thrilled for him if this is really going to happen.

With all due respect SeanValen, JM, DB,SMG et al are under no obligation to fashion their careers around what would make you happy. If you really care for these actors, you should celebrate any opportunity they have to work in an increasingly competitive profession.

As a non-“box office” actor, Kenneth Branagh directed and starred in HenryV and subsequently went on to direct, produce, adapt and/or star in Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Hamlet. While I never thought his [Branagh's] performances shook off the stage appropriate mannerisms, and his directing philosophy seems to consist of “You know what this scene needs? More me!” it goes to show that James’ situation is not so far-fetched. He has produced, adapted and directed material for the stage, he certainly knows the play *and* he can act for the camera. He’s not some greenhorn brat coming into this and I’m certain he has quite the powers of persuasion to convince powers that be to give him the funding.

[ edited by bloodflowers on 2004-06-13 21:12 ]
Good on James Marsters, if this is true. Sounds like he could have the most artistically fulfilling and interesting post-Jossverse career of all the ME alum. Joss included.

Sounds like he lucked out on financing too. $50,000,000 is a hell of a lot of money for a Shakepeare project. (To put this in perspective; Baz Lurhmann's 1996 version of 'Romeo + Juliet' only had a budget of $14,500,000...)
Hopefully it's not someone pulling an "Ed Wood" on him! LOL.

--Juliet Landau's character said something like "that sounds like a really good deal" and schmoozed him into a part in his movie but she really didn't have any money to be a backer...

[ edited by tkent on 2004-06-13 22:43 ]
Branagh wasn't an actor with a big box office record, but he had directed Shakespear for stage and TV, which is more of a track record than JM, and the budget for Henry V was $9m, and even allowing for inflation is nowhere near $50M. Much Ado was only $8m.
Joss has talked many times about how hard it is to get funding as a first time director, and he never managed it until he ran a TV show where he could give himself directing gigs.
So if Joss couldn't get funding as a director (pre BtVS) with his track record of writing movie and TV scripts what makes anyone think a studio will trust JM (a first time director, no matter what his stage track record) with $50M, on a project that is unlikely to bring in much of an audience. This isn't a summer blockbuster action movie here. This is Shakespear. When was the last time a Shakespear movie took $150M? 'Cos that's what it will have to take to cover a $50m budget.

I would love to see this but cannot see him getting $50m from anyone. $5 to $10m tops.
zz9. JM isn't directing it.
The reports didn’t say anything about JM directing; he himself has stated he doesn’t know the language of film and TV well enough to direct. And I agree that the budget seems optimistically huge, but no one can predict a film’s success or failure, which these days only seems to be judged by the quantity of money it makes not by the quality of what is produced.
I would like to know if JM was giving the actual amount or saying it with a “and I’m getting a gazillion dollars!” tone. I just want to stay as positive as possible for JM’s sake, because this appears to be something he’s wanted for quite some time.
My bad, JM isn't directing. But that makes it even less likely that he will have any creative input or casting control. Movies are the directors baby. As a Hollywood rule, the director will decide who's script to use, and can throw out JMs and rewrite it himeslf if he wishes, and the director will decide the casting.
And I still say that's a LOT of money, and no movie adaptation of the bard's has ever pulled enough box office to justify such a sum.

(Added) Some posters on the original site are expressing doubts about the huge budget. If the budget is $5m and not $50m then maybe JMs fame and stage experience could have swung it, and on a small project like that he could be a producer and have some actual say. If so I think it could be a good movie, a Shakespear movie made, like Branaghs works, by a fan and someone who understands the work and isn't just jumping on a bandwagon. JM is one of the BtVS cast who did readings at Joss's house.

[ edited by zz9 on 2004-06-14 01:35 ]
@ tkent, heeeeh re: the ed wood mention. i like the fact that it bacame something you can pull on another person. angora or no angora, johnny rocks!
With all due respect SeanValen, JM, DB,SMG et al are under no obligation to fashion their careers around what would make you happy. If you really care for these actors, you should celebrate any opportunity they have to work in an increasingly competitive profession.

Of cource I know that, but as a fan, as of fan of seeing them do angel/buffy a roles so well, I'm digged into their talents with the characters they've helped come alive, it just seems as good as it gets, partly due to Joss Wheadon :D He made the characters effect you, those actors just feel apart of the whole thing, it's very tough not to see them in roles like that, it feels the peak of the entertainment and it's why James M ranked Spike role as it good as it ever gets, whatever else he does.

[ edited by SeanValen on 2004-06-14 02:05 ]
wow... this is so incredibly cool, as a fan it is good to see him. Without the bleached blode hair (not that I don't love it)... ok eventually he will do a project without the brittish accent, but hey this is awesome.
I have to point out that $50 million dollars is the budget for 'Serenity'. And that was given to a man who has won an Oscar and has created/written/directed some genre breaking TV shows.
macbeth was a scottish king that is british. spike has an english accent
On the website, in the comments under the article, someone mentioned that a person who invented MP3 technology offered up the money.

I did a little internet research and came up with the name Nathan M. Schulhof. He invented (and holds patents on) MP3 player technology. The guy does have serious cash (he's been mentioned in Forbes), but $50 million is a lot for a single person to invest in something as risky as a movie. Please note - this is just a guess!

I've come to realize that raising money in Hollywood is a bit like Stone Soup ( All you need is one prominent investor and others will want to invest. The high profile investor ends up not having to invest as much as originally mentioned, and does not need to since others have 'come aboard' to share the risk in hopes of sharing the profit. Mr. Schulhof is a smart man and a savvy investor. If he is 'inked' to be one of the investors it could give confidence to others to invest.

I hope Mr. Marsters hasn't jinxed this project by talking about it. I hope he's got promises in writing.

I hope he ends up making a great Stone Soup.

Bubble bubble, toil and trouble.... Let's hope that Mr. Marsters success does not mimic Macbeth's. But then, this is Hollywood....

Good Luck James Marsters!
“I hope Mr. Marsters hasn't jinxed this project by talking about it.”

I hope we all haven’t. This is why I wish cards had been played a little closer to the vest. His excitement in wanting to share the news is understandable, but according to the initial con reports, he had just gotten the financing three days before. Second thoughts by investors could dash any hopes.
Someone on another board posted interview excerpts of JM expressing a desire to film the Scottish play since 1998. Our man of pure determination and ambition.
Isn't MacBeth the cursed play?
"Isn't MacBeth the cursed play?"

I think superstition has it that actors are not to call it by name in a theater, but rather refer to it as 'the Scottish play'. I don't know the procedure for reversing any slip-ups.
"I don't know the procedure for reversing any slip-ups."

Not sure how accurate this is as far as reality is concerned but i remember a very funny episode of Blackadder the Third that covered this. The episode featured two Shakespearian actors who, after Blackadder said Macbeth (frequently and hilariously hehe) had to perform a little rhyme and dance in order to avoid the curse.

Probably not what really happens but knowing how supersticious actors can be i guess you never know!
Proceedure for slip-ups seem to vary from actor to actor and company to company, but if you inadvertently say 'Macbeth' during a production it usually goes something like: spin around three times, spin around three times and spit, or run around the theatre three times and then spit (that one can be both tiring and embarrasing).
"I don't know the procedure for reversing any slip-ups."

Hmmm....knock on wood? Isn't that how you unjinx yourself? Maybe not for the theatre though.....
I'm also in the "this seems highly unlikely but I'll cross my fingers" camp when it comes to this rumored project. 50 million for a Shakespeare adaptation would be a pretty foolish investment considering the box office history of the films based on his work. Though I'd actually love the opportunity to see any and all of the Buffyverse actors in other roles. I think it's a shame that non-Buffy fans are completely oblivious as to how amazingly talented these actors are. Their film work to date really hasn't been very impressive, so I'm excited for any new opportunities they get to showcase their talents.

And, not to be nitpicky, but Joss was only Oscar nominated. But hey, he would have won in my alternate universe too. :)
While people on this and other BTVS and AtS boards are familiar with JM, the general public is not. To them he will appear to have come up out of nowhere...not the worst thing in this case.

Truth is JM spent many years acting and producing plays. First in Chicago and then in Seattle. He is no newcomer to the demands of Shakspeare. He is no newcomer to the camera either. While TV experiance does not exactly equate with movie experiance, he does have a lot of understanding about the materiel and the process. He has a vision for Macbeth. I think he found someone who believes in that vision and is going to back him. When I read that people who are fans would rather he and the other actors didn't go forward with their lives on the off chance that a movie or spin-off would need them, I feel a little sick. Besides, even for those selfish "fans" , JM has stated he would die his hair and don the role of Spike again if called upon by Joss to do it. That doesn't mean he can't do Macbeth AND the Dresden Files. This is very possibly his moment and he should take every good opportunity that becomes available.
Just to be clear (re Simon); Joss Whedon has never won an Oscar. He was *nominated* once (in 1996) for *co*-writing (along with SIX other writers) 'Toy Story'.

Hell, Joss has never even won an Emmy, let alone an Oscar. No wonder he had to fight for *his* $50 mil from a corporate giant. All studios want are sure-fire hits that'll make them money. Promise them that and they're *still* reluctant to hand over a dime. That's how movie funding in the studio system works.

It sounds like JM's budget is coming from an independant investor, whereas Joss asked for his from a big studio (Paramount, I believe). Independant investors don't necessarily give a crap about how much money-making potential a project has, if they're wealthy enough to front the money, it's often the case that they just want to be *involved* somehow with a movie or an artist. Remember the rich woman in 'An American In Paris'? It's just dumb luck to find a rich person who wants to fund your work. JM, by the sounds of things, lucked out. *Epically.*
Well, with James' connections from Buffy and Angel, he knows some good technical and behind the scenes folks, so I really hope he can make something great. Macbeth isn't my favorite Shakespeare play, but maybe James could change my mind if he does it correctly!
And some people say that James is too smart to mention something of this magnitude so publically unless he knows for sure he has the money, but I also think people forget how easily things fall through/people pull out/etc in Hollywood! I wouldn't say word one until I had a signed check in my hand!! And even THEN, you can stop payment! ;)
Bad Kitty - It's Universal who is the one backing the Firefly film not Paramount.

Also Joss does have a reputation in Hollywood that is not strictly Buffy based - he was a movie script doctor for the years from Roseanne until Buffy the series, and he was respected in that area. The big difference besides everything between what JW is doing with Firefly and JM is doing with MacBeth is that Shakesphere is Public Domain which means rights are pretty much open to the public for adaptation. Where as the rights to Firefly are owned by FOX and have to be negosiated to the nth degree to get the rights to do anything with it. Thus only another studio would have the most experience negosiating for movie rights from another studio. Where as a more independent piece such as Shakesphere can seek out more independent means of financing.

[ edited by RavenU on 2004-06-14 19:06 ]
I always thought he won an Oscar for Toy Story, I stand corrected. Maybe he'll get one for 'Serenity'. Then again, pigs might fly. Apart from 'Lord of the Rings', genre films aren't exactly on the horizon for the Oscar people.
"I hope he's got promises in writing."

"I wouldn't say word one until I had a signed check in my hand!!"

I think it would be appropriate for any investors/backers/patrons to sign in their own blood.
Then again this is James we a talking about and at the end of the day everything he says should be taken with a giant salt lick on stand by. Hhe has the best of intentions but sometimes the follow through is not there and though alot is not his fault - he just gets excited and talks stuff up - after all this time you'd think he'd learn before speaking.
Yeah, but I’m always a bit envious of that impulsive spirit.
I just hope it’s not his undoing.
"Apart from 'Lord of the Rings', genre films aren't exactly on the horizon for the Oscar people."

Nope, that would require them having at least a little bit of originality and imagination. The only reason that they acknowledged something as genre like as LOTR is because those films were so damn good that they couldn't have been ignored even if they had wanted to.

Which some of them no doubt did i should imagine.
Baz's Romeo + Juliet, the most succesful shakespeare adaption, took $45million at the US Box office and another $22 million in rentals...generally, the US box office counts for half the total box. So lets assume that R+J took $90 million at the BO and $44 million rentals... so a gross of $134 million. Impressive for a film with a $15million budget.

However, thats gross, and doesn't include marketing costs (general rule is marketing = the cost of the movie), and the revenue taken by the distributors etc.

Still it was a big success from a second time feature director, and guaranteed him Moulin Rouge (which had like a $60 million budget, but didn't do as well as R+J). However, Baz HAD directed absolutely stunning opera + theatre productions [he still does], and cut his teeth on a very low budget australian comedy.

So, I'm skeptical of the $50million -- regardless of who the director is. The last bunch of adaptions, O and Hamlet, didn't do so well.

Then again, I'm surprised that Serenity got $25million US.

In Australia, most features have budgets smaller than AU$5 million. Having anything in double figure millions is 'big'. Sigh.
I agree with the skepticism about "$50 million." Kenneth Branagh's 1996 all-star 4-hour full version of Hamlet only had a budget of $18million, and made about $5million gross. And that had, apart from Branagh: Kate Winslet, Sir Richard Attenborough, Julie Christie, Billy Crystal, Dame Judi Dench, Gérard Depardieu, Sir John Gielgud, Charlton Heston, Jack Lemmon, Rufus Sewell and even Robin Williams.

As much as we may admire James, I have a feeling he's not going to be able to put together such a cast of performers. Macbeth isn't like Luhrmann's adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, with an easy-to-modernize teen story.
If it wasn't an individual investor, I'd be skeptical about the $50 million as well. But if he really is getting the money from some rich guy who isn't the least bit involved in the film industry, it actually makes a kind of absurd sense to me. The guy isn't as experienced and doesn't have the same type of budgetary concerns as a studio or production company, is my guess. What I *am* skeptical about is how firm this is, and whether the guy will honor the full amount once he's had the chance to consult with his financial people. And also, what it'll take for JM to put together a movie from scratch if he doesn't have a production company backing him.

I hope this doesn't fall through for him, but I do wonder at how firm the commitment he got was. Met a guy on a plane? Just seems a tad bit sketchy. And he does seem a bit impulsive about excitedly blurting things before they happen...

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