WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

A splendid cast that includes Christian Bale, Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, Kevin Kline, Sophie Marceau, Michelle Pfeiffer, David Strathairn and Stanley Tucci brings to life this dynamic and enchanting new version of Shakespeare’s most magical comedy. Teeming with dangerous potions, fairy warfare and misbegotten romances, “William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is the wondrous tale of a singular night in which roguish spirits turn the world of love on its head.

Writer/ director Michael Hoffman brings this timeless story to a unique and unexpected place and time: Tuscany at the end of the 19th century. Amidst a sensuous and charming world of terraced hillsides and succulent culinary delights, Shakespeare’s characters get a new comic lease on life as they explore their world on the new-fangled invention of the bicycle. Flying into the woods on two wheels, Tuscan nobles, actors and lovers find themselves at the mercy of mischievous sprites who rule the natural world.

It all begins when Hermia (Anna Friel) and Lysander (Dominic West) flee deep into the forest to escape Hermia’s father, Egeus, who wishes Hermia to marry Demetrius (Christian Bale). Demetrius goes in pursuit of his true love Hermia, and is soon followed by yet another desperate lover: Helena, who adores Demetrius but finds her affections dreadfully unrequited. Crashing, flailing and falling into mud puddles, the foursome find themselves near the secret home of the fairies, where water nymphs and satyrs party into the night at the fairy bars and cafes. Chaos ensues when the fairy trickster Puck (Stanley Tucci) administers a secret love potion — causing the lovers to mix-and-match with outrageous results. Meanwhile, a band of actors gather in the same woods to put on a play — a play that is interrupted when its star actor Bottom (Kevin Kline) becomes a strange pawn in the love battles between Oberon (Rupert Everett), King of the Fairies, and Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer) his Queen.

Shot on location in Italy, “William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a 400-year-old whimsical romantic comedy as it’s never been seen before.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

In the piazza before a grand renaissance house in the Tuscan countryside, preparations are underway·-for Duke ‘Theseus” wedding.: Unremarked, two small figures mingle with the townspeople, collecting odd treasures to be carted off to an unknown destination …

As if his bride Hippolyta weren’t skittish enough at the approach of their wedding, the Duke is obliged to listen to the complaints of opposing sides in a dispute over an arranged marriage: Crusty old Egeus has promised his daughter Hermia to Demetrius, but Hermia loves Lysander and wants to marry him.

Ordered by the Duke to obey her father, Hermia plans to elope with her true love, using a new-fangled invention: the bicycle. But Hermia’s best friend Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, warns him of their plot. That night, when the lovers flee into the forest, Demetrius takes after them on his own bike, with a determined Helena pedaling in hot pursuit.

Bound for the same woods are a band of amateur thespians: five workmen from the village in search of a secluded spot to rehearse “The Most Lamentable Comedy, and Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe.” Even though their star, Bottom the Weaver, is the ham of hams and a comical figure in the village, they hope to perform the play before the Duke on the day of his wedding and be handsomely rewarded for their efforts.

Unknown to lovers and thespians alike, their journey into the dark forest has brought them near the secret home of the fairies, where the fairy trickster Puck administers a powerful love potion that causes the lovers to mix and match with outrageous results. As for the workmen, their rehearsal is about to be interrupted when Bottom, succumbing to Puck’s spells, becomes a pawn in the love games of Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the fairies.

A splendid cast brings this enchanting new version of Shakespeare’s most magical play to life, headed by Michelle Pfeiffer (“Up Close & Personal,” “One Fine Day”) as the fairy Queen and Kevin Kline (“The Ice Storm,” “In & Out”) as Bottom, her unlikely lover. Rupert Everett (“My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “The Madness of King George”) is the jealous Oberon, Stanley Tucci (“Big Night,” “The Impostors”) is his lieutenant Puck, David Strathairn (“L.A. Confidential,” “Simon Birch”) is Duke Theseus and French star Sophie Marceau (“Braveheart,” “Firelight”) is Theseus’ hesitant bride, Hippolyta.

Calista Flockhart plays Helena, obstinately pursuing the object of her affections, Demetrius, played by Christian Bale (“Velvet Goldmine,” “Little Women”). Entangled with them in Puck’s web are Dominic West (“Surviving Picasso”) and Anna Friel, whose film career recently took off after three years as the girl England loved to hate on the popular BBC soap “Brookside.”

Seconding Bottom in his theatrical effusions are Tony Award-winner Roger Rees-{“The-Adventures of Nicholas-Nicklebvv) as the-troupe’s

writer/ director Peter Quince; Sam Rockwell (“Box of Moonlight”), in the double role of Flute and “Thisbe”; Broadway mime and performance artist Bill Irwin (“Fool Moon”) as Snout; Max Wright as Starveling; and Greg [bara as Snug.

Representing the older generation, long-time Kenneth Branagh collaborator John Sessions plays Philostrate and Bernard Hill (last seen going down with his ship in “Titanic”) plays Hermia’s killjoy father Egeus.

Director Michael Hoffman (“One Fine Day,” “Restoration”) has transposed Shakespeare’s most popular play to the golden sunlight and green terraces of northern Italy near the end of the nineteenth century, where it was shot on location by cinematographer Oliver Stapleton (“One Fine Day,” “The Grifters”).

Production designer Luciana Arrighi, an Academy Awards nominee for “Howard’s End” and “The Remains of the Day,” joined forces with costume designer Gabriella Pescucci, an Oscare-winner for Martin Scorsese’ s “The Age of Innocence,” to create the contrasting worlds of nineteenth century Tuscany and Oberon and Titania’s fairy kingdom, which was built on the “Fellini Stage” at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios. Paul Engelen (“Batman”) designed the whimsical, beautiful and sometimes uncanny make-up for the mysterious creatures that populate the fairy world.

In addition to British film composer Simon Boswell’s score, 11William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” makes use of Felix Mendelssohn’s immortal music for the play, as well as swatches of Puccini and Verdi, to express the characters’ romantic longings.

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

“At the beginning I just had an image of this fat little Puck riding through the Tuscan countryside on the back of a turtle,” says director Michael Hoffman. “The rest of the film sort of spun out from that.”

Actually, the inspiration for Hoffman’s desire to write his screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” came from a performance of the play, in which he played Lysander. This production was staged with other dissidents from his university theater department in Boise, Idaho. A few years later, while studying theater at Oxford, he directed another production of the play that led to his first offer to direct a film.

Today, the company Hoffman and his friends started in Boise is building a $3 million theater, and he has just completed his eighth film. Little wonder that it should be an adaptation of” A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “I’ve always felt there was a blessing for me in this play,” he says.

Producer Leslie Urdang is the founder of New York Stage and Film, a distinguished Manhattan production and workshop center where many members of the cast — Calista Flockhart, David Strathairn, Roger Rees, Bill Irwin and Sam Rockwell — have performed. As a child, Urdang herself danced the role of a fairy in the 1966 film of George Ballanchine’s ballet based on the play. Urdang observes that “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a perennial favorite for school productions, is the one Shakespeare play everyone seems to know.

“Everyone you talk to seems to have played a character in it,” she says, “whether it’s an actor or your dentist who did it at kindergarten or summer camp. It’s the one you can bring your kids to — in some ways it’s a lot like ‘The Wizard of Oz.”‘

When Hoffman and Urdang started talking about filming “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” more than two years ago, they discovered that they had similar casting ideas. Urdang felt Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline would be ideal for the film version, while Hoffman had been talking to Kline since they worked together on “Soapdish.” After directing Pfeiffer opposite George Clooney in “One Fine Day,” Hoffman told Urdang that he agreed with her. “Who could be better than Michelle Pfeiffer,” he says, “with her acting talent and extraordinarily ethereal beauty, to play the Queen of the Fairies?” Six weeks later he came back with a script.

Shakespeare had originally set his story in an English version of ancient Greece where Elizabethan spectators would have felt right at home. Looking for a setting closer in time for a contemporary audience, while keeping the highly formal aristocratic culture in which it takes place, Hoffman decided to transport the story to Tuscany, a part of Italy he knows well, at the turn of the century.

“It’s the beginning of the end of the high collars and bustles, a certain loosening up of the culture,” says Urdang. “The bicycle, which plays a part in Michael’s script, was a relatively recent invention which also brought a new kind of freedom to travel without being shut up in a coach.”

·- “Besides-that-the-setting-is-ltaly, .. where-the-civilized-culture is smack up against a passion for food, the love of the countryside, and of all the more natural elements of the world,” adds Urdang.

“So when we go into the forest, all the clothes come off,” Anna Friel sums up succinctly. The centerpiece for the wild night in the forest are the scenes between Titania and Bottom, where Hoffman found his film’s emotional core.

“Bottom is one of Shakespeare’s greatest comic inventions,” says Kevin Kline. “He’s the paradigm for all ham actors — he wants to play all the parts, and he thinks he’s God’s gift to theater. Actually, there’s a little bit of Bottom in everyone who has ever stood on a stage. It’s a dream role for actors because they can get in touch with that childish love of make-believe that motivates any actor.”

“But Bottom also has the soul of an artist,” adds Kline. “He loves to escape the reality he’s in, to discover something more noble and more beautiful about himself” — which the character achieves through his tryst with Titania, the Queen of the Fairies.

“Michael made the love story between Bottom and Titania very different from what it has been before,” says Urdang. “In his version, Bottom really falls in love with Titania.”

“What if Bottom, as the king of amateur dramatics, has delusions of grandeur about himself as an actor because he doesn’t have any love in his life?,” proposes Hoffman. “So I started to build a story for him — a frustrating life and an unhappy marriage.”

“Writing the adaptation with Kevin in mind, Michael made him a type of Italian character that Marcello Mastroianni might have played,” Urdang says, “a man who reclaims his dignity from a deeper place in himself that he finds through love.”

Michelle Pfeiffer points out that Titania, too, is experiencing marital strife, and this makes her passion for Bottom more understandable. “Titania and Oberon are King and Queen,” she says, “so they have different rules to live by than Titania and Bottom do. I think that the relationship with Bottom is very liberating for her in its simplicity.”

To ensure Kline’s facial expressions in the scenes with Pfeiffer would be captured, Hoffman had make-up wizard Paul Engelen create a new look for Bottom after his “translation,” with long donkey ears and furry cheeks. “For centuries, when Bottom was enchanted, he would put on an ass’s head and vanish as a character;” says Hoffman. “Paul’s make-up enabled Kevin still to be Kevin and very present.”

“He’s really cute as a donkey,” adds Pfeiffer mischievously. “All the girls

think so.” ·· – · · — ·· – –

Filming began with the scenes where Bottom and his fellow “actors” rehearse the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe for Theseus’ wedding day. “I knew a lot of these guys from the theater and have worked with them before in film,” says Kline, “so there was an instant ensemble feeling.” Hoffman wanted their scenes to be funny, but he also felt they should underscore the theme of dignity lost and regained that is the heart of Bottom’s story. Again, the Italian setting provided the key.

“Having lived in a Tuscan village,” he recalls, “I remember sitting in the town square watching four or five middle-aged guys around a table in a bar playing cards. You realize that they’ve lived in that town and been friends since they were boys. That’s what I wanted the acting troupe to feel like. They’re a little downtrodden and they band together and put this play on. They succeed in actually accomplishing something, and I think that’s very moving.”

In shaping the scenes with the four lovers who flee into the woods and become enchanted, Hoffman was aware of a different problem. “Having played Lysander and Demetrius, I know the feeling,” he says. “You’ve got the mechanicals on one side of you getting laughs and the fairies on the other. How do you avoid being bland ingenues? That’s where the bicycles came in handy. They create an obstacle and a level of comedy that you don’t have to go over the top to achieve.”

The absurdity of people chasing after love on bicycles enabled the actors to concentrate on finding the laughs where Shakespeare put them — in the hairpin turns the youthful characters’ emotions are put through by Puck’s love potion.

“The comedy is in the writing and you don’t need to do very much to get laughs,” says Christian Bale. “It’s about how people who are in love think they’re sane, but to anybody else they’re insane. The humor is really in their passion and the seriousness.”

“For example, I saw Demetrius as an authoritarian, slightly militaristic, not a very likable guy,” continues Bale. “Then when he is put under Puck’s spell he’s suddenly this dopey love-fiend.”

Says Dominic West, who plays the passionate Lysander: “Lysander loves Hermia until they go into the woods — his darker side is revealed when the fairies put drugs in his eyes. He falls in love with his lover’s best friend, as so often happens, but she rejects him. When he wakes up, he falls back in love with the right person, but he’s learned something along the way.”

“Shakespeare wrote this play just after ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and it’s really ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with laughs,” West continues. “He’s shown how ridiculous people are when they say, ‘I love her so much I’ll kill myself if I can’t have her.’ In one way that’s great and in another way it’s stupid.”

···· “If-Hermia .is crying-which-is -somethingshe-does quite frequently, I cry for · real,” says Anna Friel, “because these characters are very real.” Her character has a right to cry: After starting off in the enviable position of being chased by two suitors, Hermia finds that she has been suddenly and inexplicably dumped by both of them for her best friend, whom she was feeling sorry for only a short time ago.

Calista Flockhart plays Hermia’s friend Helena, who pedals after Demetrius when he follows Hermia into the woods. “People call Helena obsessed,” says Calista Flockhart, “but I like to think of her as hugely determined. I think she knows that, somewhere inside him, Demetrius loves her and she just has to get his attention — that’s what gives her confidence.”

. “She’s not only obsessed with Demetrius,” clarifies Flockhart. “She’s a little obsessed with her bike. It was a bit heavy, which was great, because it gave me an incredible obstacle to workwith.”

The director says that the bike also proved useful in delineating Helena’s character. “It ends up symbolizing all the things she mythologizes about herself which make her a victim,” he says, “like the idea that she’s not pretty enough or good enough or lovable enough. It becomes this thing she carries around with her, like all the negative concepts of herself that she is eventually able to get rid of.”

Helena’s obsession seems to have been transferred to the director: During filming at Cinecitta Studios in Rome, Michael Hoffman was often seen personally testing the antique bicycles that were used in the film, making sure that the brakes and other equipment worked before turning them over to his actors.

As rich in comic and dramatic meaning as the bicycles turned out to be, he says, they started off as a solution to the practical problem posed by the film’s limited budget for special effects: “Puck says things like, ‘I go, I go, look how I go/Swifter than an arrow from a Tartar’s bow’ and ‘I’ll put a girdle round about the earth/In forty minutes.’ And I thought, what am I going to do with that?” Then it occurred to me, maybe the turtle gets swapped for a bicycle. And what if Puck has never seen a bicycle?”

That led to an inspiration for the film’s opening that helped solve what Hoffman considered the biggest challenge in filming “William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “The hard thing for me was always the fairy world,” he says. “The make-up department created creatures that penetrate a lot of the conscious levels of defense and look a little like something you’ve seen in your dreams. But how do you move from the concrete world of real rocks and stones to this remarkable set full of nymphs, satyrs, centaurs, Medusas and twofaced creatures?”

So, during -the film’s opening panorama -of a -bustlingTuscan townsquare; · filled with 300 extras dressed by costume designer Gabriella Pescucci in turn-ofthe-century costumes, sharp-eyed spectators will spot satyrs in street clothes who sport horns under their hats and little satyr feet, carting off spoils to adorn the fairy kingdom from which they come and upgrade its technology.

“We used the same russets, ochres and burnt siennas for that scene that we see later in the Magic Forest, to marry the two worlds,” says production designer Luciana Arrighi. “Montepulciano, where we filmed the scenes in the square and the theater, is an extraordinary place with wonderful architecture -not a normal Italian piazza at all.”

The fairies, who are responsible for a spell of bad weather described in the play, must have been at work when filming on that location: Upon arriving in Montepulciano, known for its rolling green hills and its unique Tuscan light, the crew was confronted with a heavy spring snowfall. Producer Urdang enlisted scores of locals with shovels, and on the first day of shooting cinematographer Oliver Stapleton bathed the Piazza with golden light, while prop boys energetically swept away the remaining piles of snow.

Weather problems had vanished by the time the company arrived at the Villa d’Este, where scene painters added a fresco portraying Cupid’s exploits to the magical frescoes of forests and rivers that already adorned the site. The interiors of Theseus’ palace were filmed there, while the palace exteriors and wedding feast were filmed at the Palazzo Farnesi in Caparolla.

The production’s masterpiece was, of course, the Magic Forest, which occupied a whole soundstage at Cinecitta. For the fairy world hidden within the forest, Hoffman and Arrighi drew on traditions that identify fairies with preChristian deities. “We decided they were Pagans and should inhabit the temples and other places of a former civilization,” says Arrighi, “specifically the Etruscan civilization that preceded Roman culture on this part of the Italian peninsula.”

Mysterious, magical and threatening, Oberon’s kingdom is a great valley where former Etruscan temples and tombs are overgrown with roots and greenery, while Titania’s world, inspired in part by pre-Raphaelite paintings, is more feminine — a little classical temple that the fairies inhabit, with a nest that can be raised and lowered for their Queen.

If Federico Fellini was watching from on high, he would have been surprised by the smell of the fresh woods, plants and flowers on his Soundstage 5, for nothing.in the Magic Forest was fake. And he would certainly not have been disappointed by the set for the Fairy World, which was the most luxurious and stunning decor built there since the Rex, the mighty ocean liner in “And the Ship Sailed On.” Ponds, mud, bubbling waters, smoke, fire and pathways – where acters · sometimes got-lost· for real-in the immense construction ·· … a fascinating and romantic setting, with satyrs fixing bicycles in their rocky workshops, fairies sewing in small grottos and a Hoffman invention: the Fairy Bar, one of the film’s modern surprises.

At the end of a difficult nine-week shoot, Hoffman and Urdang were confident that they had pulled off the difficult task of bringing visual, emotional and thematic unity to the many worlds of the play.

“It’s got something for everyone,” says Urdang. “For young people, it’s about the impulsiveness and obsessiveness of young love, the obstacles you encounter and how you work through them. With the more mature lovers, Titania and Oberon and the Duke and his bride, it’s about the balance of power between men and women and the respect each side gives to the other. It’s also about the idealized love between Bottom and Titania, which I think we all understand — that ideal love we take back in our hearts from the dark forest, which afterwards informs the way we see the world.”

“As I worked on it, the theme of the film became for me the conflict between love and dignity and how much of yourself you’re willing to give up to have love,” says Hoffman. “The desire for love in all these people is very strong, whether it’s in Oberon, who wants to give almost nothing away or Helena, who’s willing to give everything away. They are really the film’s polar opposites and Bottom’s story shows that sometimes you can reclaim your dignity by losing it for love.”

Stanley Tucci, playing an older Puck who seems a little weary of setting speed records while carrying out Oberon’s orders, says that it all goes back to “William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: “It’s a shameless comedy, but it’s also like all Shakespeare plays. They’re incredibly beautiful and poignant … and there’s always love.”

HISTORY OF THE PLAY

Judging by its mature poetic style, scholars believe that “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was written in 1595 or 1596, two years when the English countryside experienced -unusually rainy summer weather, to which the play seems to allude:

The fold stands empty in the drowned field, And crows are fatted with the murrain flock; The nine-men’s-morris is filled up with mud, And the quaint mazes of the wanton green For want of tread are undistinguishable.

It is thought to have first been performed at a noble wedding, with children from both noble houses recruited to play the fairies, and Queen Elizabeth herself — Spenser’s “Faerie Queen” — present as guest of honor to hear Oberon’s tribute to her as the “fair vestal throned by the west,” immune to Cupid’s darts.

That first production would have been acted by men and boys in contemporary Elizabethan attire. There would have been virtually no scenery or stage effects, although it is possible that the boy-actor playing Puck made his second act exit (to the words “I’ll put a girdle round about the earth/In forty minutes”) swinging on a rope like Mary Martin in “Peter Pan,” and repeated the effect in Act III (“I go, I go, look how I go/Swifter than an arrow from a Tartar’s bow”) to give spectators on both sides of the theater a good look at it.

Dr. Samuel Johnson speculated that Shakespeare wrote the character of Bottom to poke fun at a rival theater manager. There is also a tradition that Shakespeare himself played Duke Theseus, in which case the Duke’s comment on the mechanicals’ production of “Pyramus and Thisbe” would have gotten a big laugh:

Marry, if he that writ it, had played Pyramus, and hanged himself in Thisbe’s garter, it would have been a fine tragedy.

In any event, we can be sure that Bottom was played by the Globe Theatre’s resident zany, William Kempe — to the character’s detriment, according to Sir Harley Granville Barker in his famous Prefaces to Shakespeare. Writing the part for a comic who was not really an actor, Barker argues, Shakespeare spoiled it by putting in nonsense for Kempe to clown around with — particularly Bottom’s account of his dream. Today’s audiences generally find that speech moving, however, and would agree with the critic who recently wrote that Bottom is the playwright’s “most engaging character before Falstaff” and “a triumphant early example of Shakespeare’s invention of the human.”

Popular in Shakespeare’s day, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” disappeared from the English stage when the Puritans closed the theaters, surviving only in comic sketches cobbled together from the scenes with Bottom and his cronies for unofficial, if not downright underground, performance. When it reappeared- after-the -Restoration it had been turned into an opera, “The Faerie Queen” (1662), with music by Henry Purcell. The lavish first production of Purcell’s opera — complete with such scenic effects as a dance of six monkeys and “A Grand Dance of 24 Chinese” — set the pattern for the next century, when “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was mutilated, rewritten and recycled into light entertainment that relied on lavish spectacle to the detriment of whatever remained of Shakespeare’s text.

The early decades of the nineteenth century saw yet more “superproductions” that slighted the play for musical, and visual effects. Felix Mendelssohn’ s overture began to be used around this time, and his other incidental music, first performed in concert in 1844, became a staple of stage productions from then on. But tastes shaped by Romanticism also appreciated the poetry of the play, which came to be regarded as one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces — his tribute to the powers of the imagination.

As a result, the play itself began to make a comeback at the end of the century, still in a context of elaborate visual artifice, beginning with a production staged at Covent Garden in 1844 by an Italian theatrical manager, Madame Lucia Elizabeth Vestris. This landmark production used more of the text than audiences were accustomed to hearing, while eliminating figures of speech like “big-bellied sails” and “wanton winds” in deference to contemporary prudery. It also inaugurated the practice of having women play Oberon and Puck (who rose out of the stage sitting on a mushroom for his first entrance) to suggest their “ephemeral” nature. Twelve years later, a very popular production staged by Edmund Kean introduced adult fairies, with an eight-year-old Ellen Terry repeating the mushroom stunt as Puck.

A return to something like Shakespeare’s staging came in the 1914 London production conceived by Harley Granville Barker. This actor-turnedproducer had great respect for the magic of Shakespeare’s verse, which he obliged his actors to deliver in a “swift, melodious and natural” style that was the antithesis of stentorian stage traditions for reciting Shakespeare. Barker also simplified the staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” representing Theseus’ palace with white columns and using multi-colored draperies to suggest the forest. Grown actors in gold paint and barbaric ornament played the fairies, with Oberon and, for the first time, Puck being played by adult males, and a more restrained Bottom revealed dimensions of character that three centuries of ritualized slapstick — the curse of Will Kempe, according to Barker — had obliterated.

When Barker mounted his production, the play had already been translated three times-to a wholly visual-medium, the silent screen. The first film was a 1909 Vitagraph production shot partly in exteriors that included Flatbush and Prospect Park by Charles Kent, a noted stage actor who had turned to film when he lost his voice. The same year saw a very truncated French version, followed in 1913 by an Italian version without the mechanicals and a German version which seems to have anticipated the tendency of some recent stage productions to treat “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as a rather nasty nightmare. That interpretation was elaborated in a 1925 German film that made considerable use of double exposures, anachronisms from the decadent Weimar era (a telephone, a jazz band) and a female Puck so lascivious that the film was ruled off-limits for children.

It was also a German who directed the first feature-length film version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the sound era. The great theater director Max Reinhardt, who had staged it numerous times in Europe and America between 1905 and 1934, directed with William Dieterle an all-star film version for Warner Bros. As much of a revolutionary as Barker, Reinhardt had tried a variety of approaches to the play through the years, from the simplest to the most lavish, culminating in a spectacular production at the Hollywood Bowl with torchbearers descending from the surrounding hills for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta.

Impressed, Jack Warner green-lit the first major production of Shakespeare on film, starring eleven-year-old Mickey Rooney (a holdover from the Bowl) as Puck, James Cagney as Bottom, Anita Louise as Titania, Victory Jory as Oberon, Dick Powell as Lysander, Olivia de Havilland as Hermia, Warners stalwart Frank McHugh as Peter Quince and Joe E. Brown as Flute.

A heady mix of Busby Berkley and German Expressionism, Reinhardt’s gauzy, moonstruck vision showed for the first time the power of film to expand and complement the poetry of Shakespeare’s text.

Out-gunned visually by the new medium, modern stage directors have mounted even more lavish productions of the play, like Tyrone Guthrie’s 1937 Old Vic production with Vivien Leigh as Titania, or followed Barker in simplifying — a tendency which culminated in one of the few modern Shakespeare productions that can be called definitive: Peter Brook’s 1970 staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Although its most controversial aspect was the way it sexualized the goings-on in the woods, Brooks’ version was really about theater itself, reduced to its essence: actors in flowing costumes whose bright solid colors stood out against a bare white stage, into which trapezes (for Oberon and Puck) or a hammock in the form-of a hugered feathertfor-Bottom and Titania) would occasionally descend; acrobatics and juggling replacing scenic effects; mechanicals dressed like contemporary working men (as they would have been on Shakespeare’s stage) and a “translated” Bottom whose simple make-up — a donkey nose and ears — permitted the audience to see facial expressions that would be invisible under the traditional ass’ head.

(The first actor to play Bottom without the ass’ head was Charles Laughton, in a production directed by Peter Hall at Stratford-on-Avon in 1958, with a cast that included Vanessa Redgrave as Helena and Albert Finney as Lysander. Kevin Kline likes to tell the story of Laughton’s letter to a critic who had panned his performance in the leading role of the previous production of “King Lear” at Stratford: “Don’t bother to come back to Stratford to see me in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ because all I have left to show you is my Bottom.”)

Since Harley Granville Barker’s revolutionary 1914 production, one constant in stagings of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” whether for the theater or on film, has been respect for Shakespeare’s language, even when visual artifice plays a large role. Paradoxically, the return to the text that Barker fostered has actually freed the imaginations of stage and film directors to invent the most varied visual worlds for Shakespeare’s poetry to live and breathe in, most of which turn their back on the stage traditions that for two centuries embalmed the play in painted Athenian vistas and fairy fustian.

There have been five film versions since Reinhardt’s, all very different: an experimental 1959 Czech film done entirely with stop-motion animation; an animated feature done in 1965 with Mr. Magoo playing Puck; Peter Hall’s 1968 film, starring Diana Rigg, Judi Dench, David Warner and Ian Holme as Puck, with child-fairies reminiscent of the Lost Boys in “Peter Pan”; Elijah Moshinsky’s 1981 BBC version, performed in a Cavalier setting; and the film of Joseph Papp’s rollicking 1982 New York stage production, which turns suddenly serious when Bottom catches a glimpse of Titania watching from the shadows during Pyramus’ death scene. The 1966 film of George Ballanchine’s ballet version should also be mentioned, as well as the Beatles’ staging of “Pyramus and Thisbe” done for English television on Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, and such distant cousins like Woody Allen’s “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,” which borrows only the spirit of Shakespeare’s original, along with the fairies and Mendelssohn’s music.

The play seems to welcome such liberties: Kenneth Branagh staged a production in 1990 where mechanicals and aristocrats joined together at the end of “Pyramus and Thisbe” in a show-stopping song-and-dance routine — as the real audience and cast might have done at the end of the play’s premiere if it was indeed-performed in a noble house, where plays oftenended with a courtly dance in which the audience participated. In his indispensable history of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in performance, Jay Halio even reports seeing an effective version set in the Old West, with fairies dressed like Indians and “Whoopey-Ti-Yi-Yeas” and “Yippees” discretely inserted into an otherwise impeccable reading of Shakespeare’s lines.

Halio concludes his history with a production he playfully describes as “a new watershed,” Robert Lepage’s 1992 “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at London’s Royal National Theatre, where the stage was a large circular pool of water surrounded by a bank of mud, with a single light bulb hanging overhead. Lepage’s extreme vision of the play as darkly sexual featured a brass bed as its only prop, a female contortionist playing Puck, actors getting progressively mired in the primal mud as the characters’ baser instincts came to the fore and plastic mackintoshes for members of the audience sitting in the first three rows. According to Halio this highly untraditional production, which made only minimal cuts in Shakespeare’s text, also worked quite well.

The last word on the subject, at least for this century, was said by Harley Granville Barker, who freed actors and directors to keep reinventing Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by leading them back to the text:

“Treat this play how you will,” he wrote in his Prefaces, “there is no whose interpretation must so much depend on that uncharted individual quality we call taste … One piece of practical advice may be offered. Let the producer first bring his work to completion upon Shakespeare’s own terms and none other. If he can perfect the music of the play and the grace of the play’s movement, not so much else will need doing … The rest of the adventure, if it must be made, is a man’s own affair.”

ABOUT THE CAST

Kevin Kline (Nick Bottom)

Academy Awards-winner Kevin Kline was born .. in St-Louis, Missouri. · He studied piano at Indiana University’s School of Music before becoming a student at the Julliard School of Drama and a founding member of John Houseman’s The Acting Company.

For four years he toured the States with The Acting Company, playing lead roles in the plays of Chekhov, Shakespeare, Sheridan, Gorky, Goldsmith, Congreve and Moliere, making his Broadway debut in “The Three Sisters” with that company in 1974. In 1978, he appeared on Broadway in the Hal Prince musical “On the Twentieth Century,” for which he won a Drama Desk Award and the first of two Tony Awards.

Two years later, he starred as the Pirate King in Joseph Papp’s re-working of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.” The show transferred to Broadway and brought further acclaim to Kline, who again picked up Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Actor in a Musical Comedy, as well as an Obie Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Actor.

The hit musical was soon brought to the screen with Kline in the lead, however the beginning of his career as a movie actor truly began when “The Pirates of Penzance” was in its Broadway run. The show brought Kline to the attention of director Alan J. Pakula, who cast him opposite Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s Choice.” His performance was nominated for Golden Globe and BAFT A Awards.

Since, Kline has starred in numerous films including “Cry Freedom,” “A Fish Called Wanda,” “Dave,” Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm” (New York’s Gotham Award for Achievement as an Actor), “Fierce Creatures” and “In & Out,” which earned him a second Golden Globe nomination. For his manic Otto West in “A Fish Called Wanda,” Kline won the 1988 Academy Award@ as

Best Supporting Actor. His long relationship with director Lawrence Kasdan began in 1983 with “The Big Chill” and continued with “Silverado,” “I Love You to Death,” “Grand Canyon” and “French Kiss.” Kline stars with Will Smith and Kenneth Branagh in the upcoming film “The Wild, Wild West,” directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.

An actor who loves the classics, Kline continues to act in theater during his busy film career. At the Circle in the Square on Broadway, Kline won rave reviews for his Captain Bluntschli in Shaw’s “Arms and the Man,” directed by fellow actor John Malkovich. Most recently, he starred in David Hare’s adaptation of Chekhov’s “Ivanov” at the Lincoln Center.

For the New York Shakespeare Festival, he has played “Richard III,” “Henry V,” the Duke in “Measure for Measure,” Benedick in “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Hamlet” twice.

For his first “Hamlet,” Kline won the Obie Award for Sustained Achievement in Theater. A recipient of the Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, his second production of “Hamlet,” which he also directed in 1992, received five Drama Desk nominations, including two for Kline as director and lead actor. Kline, who served as associate producer for the New York Shakespeare Festival, went on to co-direct a highly-acclaimed, taped version of the production for the PBS “Great Performance” series.

Michelle Pfeiffer (Titania)

A world renown actress, Michelle Pfeiffer’s career has included an array of interesting characters. Pfeiffer, raised in California’s Orange County, first decided to pursue an acting career while attending Fountain Valley High School. On the advice of a friend, she entered and won a local beauty contest and, although she didn’t win the title of Miss Orange County, she did get an agent.

After a few small television and movie roles, she won a nationwide talent search and the role of “Pink Lady” in “Grease 2.” The role that Pfeiffer considers her dramatic breakthrough is that of Elvira James in Brian DePalma’s “Scarface.”

Pfeiffer has received many accolades during her career including Academy Awards nominations for Best Supporting Actress for “Dangerous Liaisons” and Best Actress for “Love Field” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” for which she also won awards from the New York, Los Angeles and National Society of Film Critics. Additionally, she received Golden Globe nominations for “Married to the Mob” and “Frankie & Johnny.”

Her other film credits include “Ladyhawke,” “Into the Night,” “Sweet Liberty,” “The Witches of Eastwick” “Tequila Sunrise,” “The Russia House,” Tim Burton’s “Batman II,” Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence,” “Dangerous Minds,” “Up Close & Personal” and Michael Hoffman’s “One Fine Day.”

Through her production company Via Rosa, Pfeiffer likes to develop her own projects, such as the motion picture version of Jane Smiley’s novel “A Thousand Acres,” which co-starred Jessica Lange. She recently produced and starred in the upcoming “The Deep End of the Ocean” directed by Ulu Grosbard, co-starring Treat Williams and Whoopi Goldberg.

Most recently, Pfeiffer provided the voice for the character Tzipporah in “Prince of Egypt.”

Rupert Everett “(Oberon)

Born and raised in the UK, Everett was educated in a Benedictine monastery. He left school at the age of fifteen and made his way to London to pursue theater. He eventually joined the avant-garde Citizens Theater Company of Glasgow, where he toured around Europe and England.

Everett’s talents were appreciated by audiences and critics alike with his acclaimed performances in Nicholas Hytner’s “The Madness of King George,” Robert Altman’s “Pret-a-Porter” (“Ready to Wear”) and “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” His scene-stealing role as Julia Roberts’ best friend garnered him a Golden Globe nomination, an American Comedy Award and a Blockbuster Entertainment Award.

Everett’s upcoming projects include “An Ideal Husband” opposite Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore, “Inspector Gadget” with Matthew Broderick and the comedy “The Next Best Thing” opposite Madonna.

Other films Everett has starred in include “Dunston Checks In,” “Cemetery Man,” “Another Country” (a role he originated on the stage in London), “Dance with a Stranger,” “Duet for One,” “Hearts of Fire,” “The Comfort of Strangers,” “The Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” “Tolerance,” “Inside Monkey Zetterland” and “The Man with the Gold Rimmed Glasses.”

Everett has appeared on stage in London in Tennessee Williams’ “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.” His additional theater credits include Oscar Wilde’s critically acclaimed “The Importance of Being Ernest,” “Some Sunny Day,” “Another Country,” “Mass Appeal,” “Don Juan” and “Chinchilla.” His theater work in Glasgow includes “The Vortex,” “Heartbreak House,” “A Waste of Time,” “Private Lives,” “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The White Devil.”

Everett is also the author of two novels, Hello Darling Are You Working? and The Hairdressers of St. Tropez, which is currently in its third reprint.

Stanley Tucci (Puck)

Stanley Tucci’s multiple talents have afforded him the opportunity to work on a diverse variety of projects.

“Big Night,” his first co-directing, co-screenwriting and acting effort earned Tucci numerous accolades including the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival, a Recognition of Excellence by the National Board of Review, an Independent Spirit Award, the Critics Prize at the Deauville Film Festival and honors from the New York Film Critics and Boston Society of Film Critics.

“The Impostors,” which Tucci wrote, directed, co-produced and in which he stars, was an Official Selection at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. Tucci recently won a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of Walter Winchell, the founder of American gossip, in the HBO original film “Winchell” directed by Paul Mazursky.

His previous film credits include Woody Allen’s “Deconstructing Harry,” “The Alarmist,” “A Life Less Ordinary,” “The Daytrippers,” “Kiss of Death,” “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle,” “It Could Happen to You,” “The Pelican Brief,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Billy Bathgate,” “In the Soup” and “Slaves of New York.”

For television, Tucci received an Emmys nomination for his role as Richard Cross in Steven Bochco’s “Murder One.” Other television appearances include episodes of “Equal Justice,” “Wiseguy,” “The Equalizer,” “thirtysomething” and “The Street.”

On Broadway, Tucci has appeared in numerous plays including “Execution of Justice,” “The Iceman Cometh,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “The Misanthrope.” He has performed off-Broadway at Yale Repertory Theatre and at SUNY Purchase, where he first studied acting.

Upcoming, Tucci will be directing and starring in “Joe Gould’s Secret,” with Ian Holm.

Calista Flockhart (Helena)

The versatile and talented Calista Flockhart has worked in film, television and theater.

A renowned stage actress, Flockhart most recently appeared on Broadway in Scott Elliot’s production of “The Three Sisters.” She made her Broadway debut opposite Julie Harris in “The Glass Menagerie,” for which she received the Theatre World Award and the Clarence Derwent Best New Talent Award.

Additional New York theater credits include Jonathan Marc Sherman’s “Sophistry and Sons” and “Fathers” opposite Ethan Hawke; Garry Marshall’s “Wrong Turn at Lungfish”; “All for One” with Liev Schrieber; Caryl Churchill’s “Mad Forest”; and Warren Leight’s “The Loop,” which brought her to the attention of director Mike Nichols who cast her in “The Birdcage.”

Regionally, Flockhart has starred as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” Cordelia in “King Lear,” Irina in “The Three Sisters” and Emily in “Our Town.”

Her additional film credits include “Drunks” with Richard Lewis and Faye Dunaway and “Telling Lies in America” with Kevin Bacon and Brad Renfro.

Flockhart currently plays the title character on “Ally Mc Beal,” which has earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Emmye nomination.

Anna Friel (Hermia)

Newcomer Anna Friel broke onto the scene by starring in the popular UK soap opera “Brookside,” for which she won the Best Actress award at the National Television Awards in 1995.

However, Friel got her start in 1989 when she joined the Oldham Theatre Workshop, where she performed in numerous productions. The following year, Friel landed her first professional acting job in the BBC series “In Their Shoes,” which was followed by Alan Bleasdale’s “G.B.H.” with Michael Palin.

Her recent theater credits include “Look Europe” at the Almeida Theatre with Harold Pinter.

Her other television work includes roles in “Brother’s Cadfael,” “Tales from the Crypt,” “Coronation Street,” “Going Live,” “In Suspicious Circumstances,” “Medics,” “Emmerdale” and “Our Mutual Friend.”

Friel made her feature film debut in “The Tribe” with Joley Richardson and Jeremy Northam. Film appearances which followed include “The Land Girls,” “You Drive Me,” “Stringer,” “St. Ives” and “Rogue Trader.”

She is currently shooting “Sunset Strip” with Jared Leto and will appear on Broadway this summer in “Closer.”

Christian Bale (Demetrius)

Christian Bale’s film credits include “Velvet Goldmine,” “The Portrait of a Lady,” “The Secret Agent,” “Little Women,” “Newsies,” “Treasure Island,” “Henry V” and “Empire of the Sun,” for which he won a special National Board of Review award.

He can be seen in the upcoming film festival favorite “Metroland,” opening in April, directed by Phillip Saville and co-starring Emily Watson and “All The Little Animals,” directed by Jeremy Thomas and co-starring John Hurt.

Bale will begin production on “American Psycho” in March.

Dominic West (Lysander)

Dominic West made his feature film debut in Benjamin Fry’s “E=MC2.” He has since starred in “Richard III,” “True Blue,” “The Gambler,” “Diana & Me,” “Spice World” and James Ivory’s “Surviving Picasso.”

For the stage, West starred in three productions in the Peter Hall season at the Old Vic, “The Seagull,” “Waste” and “Cloud Nine,” as well as a production of “The Silver Tassie” at the Almeida.

West recently completed the upcoming “Star Wars: Episode I.”

David Strathaim (Theseus)

Critically acclaimed actor David Strathairn’s distinguished career has included work in theater, film and television. He has appeared in nearly thirty films, most notably “Simon Birch” opposite Ashley Judd, Curtis Hansen’s “L.A. Confidential” and “The Firm” with Tom Cruise. Strathairn’s other film credits include “Dolores Claiborne,” “Losing Isaiah,” “The River Wild,” “Bob Roberts,” “Eight Men Out,” “Passion Fish,” “Matewan,” “Dominick and Eugene,” “A League of Their Own” and “Silkwood,” among many others.

Theater highlights over his career include “The Three Sisters,” “Einstein and The Polar Bear” on Broadway, as well as numerous off-Broadway plays including “Eyes for Consuela,” “Hapgood,” “Lie of the Mind” and “Five of Us.” Strathairn can currently be seen on Broadway in Harold Pinter’s “Ashes to Ashes” and in the upcoming “Sally’s Porch.” “”

His extensive television work includes “Evidence of Blood” and “Beyond the Call” for Showtime, the acclaimed “In the Gloaming” directed by Christopher Reeves,” “The James Brady Story” and “Judgement,” the mini- series “Day One” and a re-occurring role on “Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.”

Sophie Marceau (Hippolyta)

French actress Sophie Marceau first captivated American audiences with her scene-stealing performance in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart.”

Marceau has starred in numerous films including “Firelight,” “Anna Karenina,” “Marquise,” “Par Dela Nes Nuages,” “Fanfan,” “La Pille D’ Artagnan,” “La Note Bleue,” “Pour Sacha,” “L’Etudiante,” “Mes Nuites Sont Plus Belle,” “Descente Aux Enfers,” “L’ Amour Braque,” “Fort Saganne” and “La Bourn N.2,” for which she received the Caesar Award for the female performance of the year.

Marceau is currently shooting the 19th James Bond film, “The World is Not Enough.” She can be seen in the upcoming romantic comedy “Lost & Found” with Jon Lovitz and David Spade and the thriller “Franck Spadone” directed by Richard Bean.

Roger Rees (Peter Quince)

A veteran stage actor, Roger Rees won a Tony Award for Best Actor for his Broadway performance as the title role in “Nicholas Nickleby” and was nominated for a Tony Award for “Indiscretions,” opposite Kathleen Turner and Eileen Atkins.

On the big screen, Rees has appeared in “Next Stop Wonderland,” “The Substance of Fire,” “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” “If Looks Could Kill,” “Star 80” and the upcoming films “The Bumblebee Flies Anyway” and “Blackmale.” Off-Broadway, he starred with Uma Thurman in Classic Stage Company’s “The Misanthrope” and won the Obie Award for Jon Robin Baitz’s “The End of the Day.” Rees’ West End credits include “The Real Thing,” “Hapgood” and his own play “Double Double,” co-authored with Eric Elice. For the Royal Shakespeare Company.the has appeared in “Hamlet,” “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” “The Three Sisters,” “The Suicide” and “Nicholas Nickleby,” for which he ‘Won the Olivier Award.

As a director, Rees adapted Sheridan’s “The Rivals” at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. He also directed Jon Robin Baitz’s “The Film Society,” Lynn Nottage’s “Mud River Stone” for Playwrights Horizons and Seth Greenland’s “Red Memories.”

As co-artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic for two seasons, Rees directed “Julius Caesar,” “John Bull” and Ben Travers’ “Turkey Time,” among others. Currently an associate artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company and an adjunct professor at UCLA, Rees has held the Hoffman Chair of Drama at FSU and lectures at Columbia University.

Rees most recently starred at the Playwrights Horizons in “The Uneasy Chair” opposite Dana Ivey.

Bill Irwin (Tom Snout)

Bill Irwin was an original member of the Kraken Theater Company and the Pickle Family Circus of San Francisco, where he worked with Larry Pisoni and Geoff Hoyle. He appeared as a guest with the ODC Dance Company of San Francisco, which first produced his original work. His own pieces, often developed with Doug Skinner and Michael O’Conner, include “Not Quite / New York,” “The Courtroom” and “Regard of Flight” (also seen on PBS’ “Great Performances”).

On Broadway, Irwin’s original work, “Largely New York” received five Tony Award nominations and won Drama Desk, Outer Critic Circle, New York Dance and Performance Awards. Irwin has starred in numerous stage productions including “Full Moon,” which he also choreographed with David Shiner; “Waiting for Godot” at the Lincoln Center co-starring Steve Martin, Robin Williams and F. Murray Abraham; “Texts for Nothing” directed by Joe Chaikin at The Public Theater and George Wolfe’s production of “The Tempest.” Other Broadway productions include “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” and “5-6-7-8 Dance!” Recently, he directed and starred in his adaptation of the play “Scapin” and directed “A Flea in Her Ear”· at the Roundabout Theatre.

Irwin’s feature films include Ang Lee’s upcoming “Ride with the Devil,” John Turturro’s “Illuminata,” “Scalpers” with Andy Garcia, “My Blue Heaven,” “Scenes from a Mall,” “Popeye,” “A New Life,” “Eight Men Out,” “Stepping Out,” “Hot Shots” and “Silent Tongue.”

Irwin has appeared on numerous television shows including “Third Rock from the Sun,” “Northern Exposure,” “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Cosby Show,” HBO’s “Bette Midler: Mondo Beyondo” and PBS’s “Great Performances 20th Anniversary Special” in addition to starring, directing and choreographing the closing ceremony of the summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Sam Rockwell (Francis Flute)

Sam Rockwell made his feature film debut in “Clown House,” produced by Francis Ford Coppola, while still a student at the High School of Performing Arts. Since then, he has continued to build an extensive body of work, appearing in more than nineteen motion pictures.

At last year’s Sundance Film Festival he appeared in three well received films: “Lawn Dogs,” “Safe Men” and “Jerry & Tom.” In “Lawn Dogs,” Rockwell plays Trent, a lonely outsider who forms a controversial alliance with a rebellious ten-year-old girl. The role earned him Best Actor Awards at both the Montreal and Barcelona Film Festivals.

Rockwell’s other notable film credits include Tom Dicillo’s “Box of Moonlight,” in which he earned raves as “the Kid” opposite John Turturro; “Drunks,” directed by Peter Cohen and starring Richard Lewis, Parker Posey and Faye Dunaway; Paul Schrader’s “Light Sleeper”; Uli Edels’ “Last Exit to Brooklyn”; and most recently in Woody Allen’s “Celebrity,” co-starring Kenneth Branagh and Judy Davis.

No stranger to the theater, Rockwell appeared in “Face Divided” as part of last year’s successful off-Broadway play “Goosepimples,” written by independent film legend Mike Leigh.

Next up for Rockwell is a lead role with Tom Hanks in Frank Darabont’s “The Green Mile.” Based on a Stephen King novel, the film will be released later this year.

Bernard Hill (Egeus)

Veteran actor Bernard Hill’s most memorable role is perhaps that of the captain on the ill-fated “Titanic,” directed by James Cameron.

Other notable film credits include “The Ghost and the Darkness” with Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas, “Shirley Valentine,” Peter Greenaway’s “Drowning by Numbers,” “Ghandi,” directed by Richard Attenborough and Roger Donaldson’s “The Bounty.”

For television, Hill has appeared on such BBC shows as “Mill on the Floss,” “Lipstick on Your Collar,” “New World,” “Antigone,” “Hard Labour” and the forthcoming production of “Great Expectations.”

On stage, Hill has played Eddie Carbone in “A View from the Bridge” for the Bristol Old Vic and London’s West End; Lophakhin in “The Cherry Orchard” in the West End; Macbeth in “Macbeth” at Leicester Haymarket; and Toby Belch in Hampstead Theatre’s “Twelfth Night.”

Hill’s most recent credit is Clint Eastwood’s “True Crime.”

John Sessions (Philostrate)

John Sessions has a number of successful productions to his credit. He has appeared in numerous television productions including “Tom Jones,” “In the Red,” “Stella Street,” “Boswell and Johnsons Western Isles,” “Porter House Blue” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” His original solo work includes “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Tall Tales” and “Likely Stories.”

His film credits include “Henry V,” “Princess Caraboo” and “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Sessions has appeared extensively in the West End including such plays as “Tartuffe,” “Common Pursuit” and “My Night with Reg,” soon to be released as a feature film. Original theater work includes “Life of

Napoleon,” “Traveling Tails” and, most recently, “Paint Said Fred” at the Royal Academy of Art.

ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS

Michael Hoffman (Director I Screenwriter I Producer)

Michael Hoffman’s .devotion to Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” began with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s inaugural production in which he played Lysander. While studying renaissance drama as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University a few years later, he directed another production of the play that led to an offer to direct “Privileged.” A comedy written by Hoffman and “Restoration” screenwriter Rupert Walters, this undergraduate film featured the debut performances of Hugh Grant, James Wilby and Imogen Stubbs.

Hoffman most recently helmed “One Fine Day,” with Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney and the Academy Award@-winning “Restoration” starring Robert Downey Jr. Hoffman’s other credits include “Soapdish,” with Sally Field and Kevin Kline; “Restless Native,” “Some Girls” and “Promised Land,” which he also wrote.

A native of Idaho, he is one of the founders and a current member of the Board of Trustees for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boise. The festival draws more than 30,000 patrons to summer repertory performances and is currently in the process of building a $3 million amphitheater.

Leslie Urdang (Producer)

Leslie Urdang has been developing and producing theater since graduating from the Yale School of Drama.

For the theater, she has produced dozens of new works including the premiere plays of John Patrick Shanley, Beth Henley, Jay Presson Allen, Jon Robin Baitz, Warren Leight and Steve Martin. She is the producing director and co-founder of New York Stage and Film Company. In film, Urdang is about to begin production on “Sounds of the Night” for HBO with Amy Robinson co-producing and Madonna executive music producing. She will produce Alfred Uhry’s “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” directed by Bruce Beresford this spring, and is planning a production of “The Taming the Shrew” with Michael Hoffman for later in 1999. Urdang has several other film projects in development as well.

Her first feature was “Me and Veronica” starred Elizabeth McGovern and Patricia Wettig.

Arnon Milchan (Executive Producer)

Arnon Milchan is the founder of Regency Enterprises and one of the preeminent independent film producers. He was named Producer of the Year at the 1997 National Association of Theater Owners’ ShoWest convention.

With domestic box office revenue from New Regency’s 31 films over the past five years approaching $1 billion, Milchan’s organization stands as one of the most successful independent production companies in the industry. Milchan recently signed a 15-year deal with Fox Filmed Entertainment, taking his New Regency Productions to the studio. Additionally, Home Box Office and New Regency announced a deal providing HBO with exclusive pay television rights to New Regency films for the HBO and Cinemax services.

Most recent from Milchan and Regency are “The Negotiator” starring Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson, “City of Angels” starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan and the critically-acclaimed, Academy Awards-winning “L.A. Confidential” with Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito.

Milchan’s production credits include such influential films as Garry Marshall’s “Pretty Woman,” Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in America,” Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers,” “JFK” (nominated for eight Academy Awardse) and “Heaven and Earth,” Joel Schumacher’s “Falling Down,” Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” and “The Mambo Kings.” Among the numerous other films he has produced are “A Time to Kill,” “Tin Cup,” “Heat,” “The War of the Roses,” “The Power of One,” “Under Siege,” “Free Willy,” “Guilty by Suspicion,” “Sommersby” and “Copycat.”

Born in Israel, Milchan is known for his ventures into other areas of entertainment such as theater, music and television. Such ventures have included financing Roman Polanski’ s staging of the play “Amadeus” in Paris and co-producing the landmark TV mini-series “Masada,” on which he collaborated with Sydney Pollack — a relationship that fostered into productions of “The Electric Horseman” starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda and “Honeysuckle Rose” starring Willie Nelson and Dyan Cannon.

Upcoming projects at Fox include “Entrapment” starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones and David Pincher’s “Fight Club” starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter.

Ann Wingate (Co-Producer)

Ann Wingate began her career producing television commercials, documentaries and corporate films. In 1982 she began working as the production manager on a string of critically acclaimed films including “A Room with a View,” “The Good Father,” “A Private Function” and “Prick Up Your Ears.”

She produced “Making Waves” for Channel Four which was subsequently nominated for an Oscare for Best Short Film and “In My Defence” for Oyster Television and the BBC. Wingate was associate producer on “Tree of Hands” and executive produced three eleven-minute shorts for Channel Four Television/British Screen including “Kitchen Child,” “The Hangover” and “Work Experience,” which won the Oscare for Best Short Film in 1990.

Wingate has consulted on several feature films for the BBC including Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter, directed by David Jones and starring Kyle MacLachlan. She co-produced Merchant-Ivory’s “Howard’s End” and Jane Campion’s film version of Henry James’ “A Portrait of a Lady” and produced “The Hawk” with Eileen Quinn, starring Helen Mirren and directed by David Hayman.

Wingate is currently developing several projects including Clare Boylan’s “Black Baby” and Martin Booth’s “A Very Private Gentleman.”

Nigel Goldsack (Associate Producer)

Nigel Goldsack has worked as co-producer, producer and associate/line producer on a wide variety of projects. These range from the documentary “Everest — Ocean in the Sky” to such films as “The Portrait of a Lady” and “My Life So Far,” as well as UPM/location production manager on “Casualties of War,” “Ruby Cairo” and “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

In 1993 he founded the production company Dynasara in Malaysia, which provides a gateway into Asia for international productions such as “Entrapment” and currently “Anna and the King.”

Besides developing a number of his own projects including the historical adventure “Rajah Brookes” and the cold war adventure “Situation Vacant,” he is currently associate producer on the nineteenth James Bond Film.

Oliver Stapleton (Director of Photography)

Oliver Stapleton has photographed a broad spectrum of critically acclaimed films. He has teamed with director Michael Hoffman on three of his previous films: “One Fine Day,” the Oscar@-winning “Restoration” and “Restless Natives.”

Stapleton has collaborated with Stephen Frears eight times, beginning with the seminal film “My Beautiful Launderette,” followed by “Prick Up Your Ears,” “Sammy and Rosie Get Laid,” “The Grifters,” “Hero,” “The Snapper,” “The Van” and “The Hi-Lo Country.” Additional film credits include the upcoming “The Cider House Rules,” “The Object of My Affection,” “The Designated Mourner,” “Kansas City,” “Let Him Have It,” “She-Devil” and “Danny – The Champion of the World,” which garnered an ACE Cable Award nomination. For his work on the sci-fi comedy “Earth Girls Are Easy,” Stapleton earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination.

Stapleton began his cinematography career shooting music videos with such directors as Julian Temple, who he later worked with on the director’s “Absolute Beginners” and “The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball,” co-directed by Temple and Roger Graef. He won an MTV Video Award for Best Cinematography for his work with the band A-Ha on the acclaimed music video for their song “Take Me On.”

Luciana Arrighi (Production Designer)

Luciana Arrighi won an Academy Award@ for her work on Merchant Ivory’s “Howard’s End” and was nominated for “Remains of the Day.”

Arrighi’s talents can be seen in numerous highly acclaimed films including “Oscar and Lucinda,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Surviving Picasso,” “The Innocent,” “Madam Sousatzka,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Mrs. Soffel” and “Women in Love.”

Arrighi is currently in production on “Anna and the King.”

Gianni Giovagnoni (Supervising Art Director)

Art director Gianni Giovagnoni has worked on numerous films. His most recent credits include “Dangerous Beauty,” “Mighty Aphrodite,” “Little Buddha,” “Blizhny Krug,” “Fair Game,” “The Last Emperor,” “Momo,” “Red Sonja,” “Carmen,” “Sotto, Sotto,” “Yes, Giorgio,” “Orient Express,” “L’ Altra Meta del Cielo,” “Kidnap,” “Andy Warhol’s Dracula,” “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein,” “Terminal,” among others.

As a production designer, Giovagnoni’s credits include “Woman of North,” “Santostefano,” “Croce & Delizia,” “A Month by the Lake,” “Killer Rules,” “Jackpot, “Beyond the Ocean, “Valentine” and “Noccioline a Colazione.”

Garth Craven (Editor)

Like many of Michael Hoffman’s exemplary filmmaking team, editor Garth Craven has collaborated with Hoffman on several previous projects including “One Fine Day,” “Restoration” and “Soapdish.”

Craven’s credits include “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “And the Band Played On,” “Turner & Hooch,” “The Best of Times,” “Educating Rita” and several Sam Peckinpah films including “Convoy,” “The Killer Elite,” “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia,” “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid” and “Straw Dogs.”

As a second-unit director, Craven has worked on “Leap of Faith,” “Air America,” “Turner & Hooch,” “Convoy” and “Carney.”

Gabriella Pescucci (Costume Designer)

Gabriella Pescucci has designed costumes for numerous film, television, opera and theater productions.

She received an Academy Award® for her costumes in Martin Scorsese’s “Age of Innocence” and an Oscar® nomination for Terry Gilliam’s “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” Pescucci’s other film credits include “Cousin Bette,” “The Scarlet Letter,” “Indochine,” “The Name of the Rose,” “Once Upon a Time in America,” as well as Fellini’s “Prova d’ Orchestra” and “La Citta Delle Donne.”

Pescucci has designed costumes for such operas as “Norma,” “Manon Lescaut,” “II Trovatore,” “La Traviata,” “Boheme,” “Pagliacci,” among many others. Her theater credits include “Mahagonny,” “Napoli Chi Resta e Chi Parte,” “Fior Di Pisello” and “Strano Interludio.”

Pescucci’s recent films include “Les Miserables,” starring Liam Neeson, Claire Danes, Geoffrey Rush and Uma Thurman; “Dangerous Beauty,” with Rufus Sewell and Catherine McCormick; and the upcoming “Le Temps Retrouve,” with Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Beart and John Malkovich.

Simon Boswell (Music)

Simon Boswell began his music career in Italy scoring cult horror director Dario Argento’s “Creepers.” Since then, he has worked with some of the world’s most adventurous directors. His film credits include Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Santa Sangre,” Danny Boyle’s BAFTA award-winning film- “Shallow Grave,” Tim Sullivan’s “Jack and Sarah,” Iain Softley’s “Hackers,” Clive Barker’s “Lord of Illusions” and Des McAnuff’s “Cousin Bette.”

In addition to performing and recording his own music — he made his first solo album while still a student at Cambridge — Boswell has produced and contributed material for many bands and singers, from the lyrical (Pierce Turner and Phillip Glass) to the mainstream (Aztec Camera, Amii Stewart and Nik Kershaw).

Boswell most recently scored the music for Boyle’s “Alien Love Triangle,” the

Alex de la Iglesias film “Perdita Durango,” David Kane’s “This Year’s Love” and the directorial debuts “Bone” by Ewan :rvkGregor and “Warzone” by Tim Roth.

Lora Kennedy (Casting Director, U.S.A.)

Veteran casting director Lora Kennedy has cast many of director Michael Hoffman’s films including “One Fine Day,” “Soapdish,” “Some Girls” and “Promised Land.”

Kennedy’s most recent credits include “The Deep End of the Ocean,” starring Michelle Pfeiffer and “Dance With Me.” She was the casting director on “Wayne’s World II,” “Tombstone,” “Coneheads,” “Wrestling Ernest Hemingway,” “Always” and “Slam Dance,” among others.

A graduate of Pepperdine University, Kennedy gained experience by assisting such casting directors as Wallis Nicita and Reuben Cannon, in addition to briefly working as an agent at the William Morris Agency. She worked in association with Deborah Lucchesi on such films as “Legal Eagles” and “Irreconcilable Differences.”

Upcoming films Kennedy has cast are “Romeo Must Die,” “House on Haunted Hill,” “RKO 281,” “Of Such Small Differences” and “Gossip.”

Paul Engelen (Make-Up Designer)

Make-up artist Paul Engelen has been doing make-up for film for more than 20 years.

His first films included three in the James ‘Bond series: “Moonraker,” 11The Spy Who Loved Me” and “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Since then, he has worked on such films as “Reds,” “Ragtime,” “Victor /Victoria,” “Pink Floyd – The Wall,” “The Bounty,” “The Little Shop of Horrors,” “Empire of the Sun,” “A Fish Called Wanda,” “Casualties of War,” “Batman,” “The Sheltering Sky,” “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Three Muskateers,” Michael Hoffman’s “Restoration,” “Fierce Creatures,” “The Ghost and the Darkness,” “The Saint” and “Seven Years in Tibet.”

Engelen received an Academy Awardenominatton and a BAFTA award for “Greystoke”; a BAFTA nomination for. “The Emerald Forest”; and an Oscar® nomination for “Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.s

Engelen’s most recent film is the upcoming “Star Wars – Episode l.”