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Shawn Dwyer

Olivier's Long-Lost 'Macbeth' Discovered

By January 31, 2013

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HamletAfter 50 years, several drafts of a proposed adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth by Laurence Olivier were discovered when previously they were thought to have not existed.

According to a report by The Guardian, British professor Jennifer Barnes unearthed the scripts - which total 13 in all, from sketches to shooting drafts - while searching Olivier's archived papers for manuscripts of Richard III. The proposed film would have been his fourth Shakespeare adaptation, and would have starred Olivier as Macbeth and then-wife Vivien Leigh as Lady Macbeth.

Both starred in a famed 1955 production that left Olivier excited about the prospect of a film version. But in 1958, the proposed film was forever put on the shelf after financing fell through. Olivier remained bitter about the failed attempt and spent the remainder of his life creating something of a mystique about the scripts, claiming that none existed.

Henry VFans and film historians often wondered what his version might have been like and now we know. The drafts reveal that Olivier and Leigh were to play two of the witches as well as the leading roles, while the actor-director planned to eliminate Macbeth's most famous line, "Is this a dagger which I see before me?" in order to make the character appear more heroic. Olivier also planned to open the film with an image of Macbeth looking at his own blood and wanted to film the production on location in Scotland.

Of course, having won Best Actor and Best Picture for Hamlet, while receiving high praise for Henry V and Richard III, one can't help but wonder what an Olivier adaptation of Macbeth might have been like. While we will never know for certain, the previously missing scripts give us at least a brief glimpse.

Laurence Olivier in 'Hamlet' (1948) and 'Henry V' (1944)/Sonar Entertainment


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