Tragedy of Macbeth, The: Denzel Washingon and Cast Talk about Joel Coen’s First Solo Project and Bringing Diversity to Shakespeare

Cast of ‘Tragedy of Macbeth’ Talk about Joel Coen’s First Solo Project and Bringing Diversity to Shakespeare

Coen’s Shakespeare adaptation, starring Washington and Frances McDormand, premiered in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Cold temperatures and falling rain provided suitable backdrop for the Los Angeles premiere of The Tragedy if Macbeth, the latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy, held Thursday night at the Directors Guild of America theater.

Multiple Oscar-winning stars Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand were joined on the red carpet by castmates Corey Hawkins, Stephen Root, Alex Hassell and director Joel Coen.

The carpet led through a DGA lobby that was transformed into a Gothic castle, including a massive keep that loomed over the reception desk.

The Apple/A24 film marked Washington’s first time shooting with Coen, and he spoke about the qualities that made him a great director.

In his first solo venture without brother Ethan, Coen shot the film entirely in black-and-white and on austere sets that gave the film a minimalist feel, providing space for the star’s powerhouse performances.

Denzel Washington on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert '

 

“Everyone has different gifts. I’ve worked with so many great directors, from Spike Lee to Jonathan Demme,” Washington said. “Everybody’s different, but Joel’s focus and attention to detail are really incredible.”

Hawkins, who stars as MacDuff, Macbeth’s antagonist in the film, discussed what it meant for Black actors to take on Shakespearean roles that had previously only been played by white actors.

“For a young kid to see these Black actors up there doing Shakespeare, it’s like, ‘Yes, wow, we can do that,’” Hawkins said. “We have as much ownership of that as anyone else does and we can do that if we want. And I just feel fortunate that I get to be a part of that.”

Root, who has worked with the Coen brothers on several movies, including O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Lady Killers, said that despite only working with Joel on the film, it felt “exactly the same” and as if both brothers were on set.

“I missed Ethan’s smile and the way he would just say, ‘Go ahead.’ They’re still of one mind,” Root said. “They pretty much direct the same and produce the same, so although I missed him as a friend, Joel had everything that they do when they’re together, in terms of storyboarding and creating fresh shots. It felt exactly the same.”

Neither Coen nor McDormand spoke to the press, but Coen did address the audience before the screening, with McDormand — his wife and leading lady — shouting at him from the audience to “use the mic” when he wandered too far from the podium and couldn’t be heard.

Coen shared with the audience why he felt compelled to make this film.

“This is an adaptation of a play that’s almost 400 years old. It’s stood the test of time,” Coen said. “Time is in many ways what this movie is about. Time is a seam that runs through the play. It’s mentioned in the text over 40 times. It’s a murder story in which the playwright has woven that obsession into the story.”

A post-screening reception was canceled due to rising virus rates, and testing and vaccinations were required on the carpet, with a second test needed for unmasked reporters.

The premiere was held the same night as the originally planned Cyrano premiere across town, which was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Tragedy of Macbeth hits theaters December 25 and starts streaming on Apple TV+ January 14.