The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1794 Friday, 22 September 2000.
Date: Thursday, 21 Sep 2000 13:43:31 -0400
Subject: Sweet Prince Downey
DISH: GIBSON PLAYS BARD CARD
By MICHAEL FLEMING
NEW YORK -- Mel Gibson has committed to direct Robert Downey Jr. as the
troubled prince in a stage run of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," with
performances to begin in January. It will be the first Shakespeare stage
performance for Downey.
The pair starred together in "Air America" and have remained friendly
ever since. They recently began plotting the stage venture, and have
scheduled a Sept. 30 reading to mount a star-studded cast. At the same
time, talks are underway to secure an L.A. theater in which to stage the
production. It will be the first directing effort for Gibson since he
won the Oscar for "Braveheart." It is also a role Gibson himself played
onscreen when he starred in a Franco Zeffirelli-directed "Hamlet" film
in 1991. That was the first project produced by Icon, the company Gibson
partners in with Bruce Davey. Icon might be involved in a producing
capacity in the play, but those details are now just being worked out
after Gibson and Downey committed to the unusual project.
The stage date is another high-profile but unexpected venture for
Downey, the screen star who, just days after being paroled from state
prison for a probation violation, accepted David E. Kelley's offer to
play Calista Flockhart's love interest in the first eight episodes of
"Ally McBeal." The producers would like Downey to extend his stay, even
become a regular.
While the show's family atmosphere in its Manhattan Beach compound is
very compatible with Downey's recovery program Walden House, Downey's
also in demand to return to films. Sources said he's not yet decided on
a longer "Ally" stay, and he could presumably do episodes while
rehearsing for "Hamlet" into the fall. Downey got out of prison just in
time for the re-release of the Curtis Hanson-directed "Wonder Boys," the
film he starred in with Michael Douglas which will be back in theaters
to help Paramount position for Oscar consideration.