Now that the Force Awakens stars have exploded into our lives, it’s pretty exciting to see what projects they start choosing, since they’re in a position to choose basically anything they want. We mentioned earlier today that John Boyega is headed to the West End to do a new adaptation of the 19th century play Woyzeck. Now Daisy Ridley has been confirmed as taking the titular role in a new film, titled Ophelia. For theatre geeks, YA geeks, or just general Ridley fans, this is awesome news. I haven’t read Lisa Klein’s novel that the film is adapted from, but for pretty much any woman who read Hamlet at a young age, Ophelia was our Holden Caulfield (cue the obligatory Catcher hate): a tragic, complex, and never fully understood character who once introduced, is nearly impossible to wrench out of your heart.
Here’s the book’s description. Not having read it, I’m not sure if anything in here is a spoiler (as it does delve into an untold version of the character’s story), but it’s straight from the book’s Amazon page.
In this re-imagining of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. She catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, and their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and ultimately, Ophelia must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever … with one very dangerous secret, she is pregnant with Hamlet’s child.
With Snow White and the Huntsman, Maleficent, and a bunch of recent others, this alternate retelling through a supporting character’s POV is a trend that has highs and lows. It’s a cool concept that sometimes lands and sometimes very much doesn’t. Hamlet does have a good history of this type of work, though, as anyone who’s familiar with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead can tell you.
In addition to Ridley, Naomi Watts will be playing Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, and Mad Men’s Semi Chellas will be writing the screenplay. And although having more women involved in a female-centric film doesn’t guarantee quality, it’s a good sign. Plus, the producers and entire team seem to really care about this character and her place in our heart-canon. Producer Daniel Bobker explained his interest:
[There’s] something extra precious in bringing to life a treasured female icon, celebrated for centuries as an alluring figure in the shadows of Shakespeare’s most famous work, without ever really having her own story told.
Alternate tellings and YA adaptations have such a hit-or-miss history, but personally, I’ll be holding out hope for this particular one to hit squarely on the bullseye of my inner teen heart.