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Six Shakespearean Actors With The Bitchingest Other Roles

Benjamin Ilagan

Ateneo de Manila University



Six Shakespearean Actors With The

Bitchingest Other Roles

So, okay, let’s say you’re at a party. It’s pretty chill. You’re dressed up, you have a cold beer in one hand and you’re sitting on a comfy chair having a conversation with a reasonably attractive girl (or a boy if you’re a girl) and the topic of Shakespeare comes up, as it inevitably must. Fortunately, thanks to your sem spent in Dr. Judy Ick’s Transmedial Shakespeare class, you’re well-prepared. Things are going well; you’re discussing Shakespeare and movies when the conversation suddenly shuts down. GASP. You realize that you’ve run out of things to talk about. Wanting to keep things going though, and wanting to remain in the context of Shakespeare and movies because you know a lot about it, you say, “Hey did you know that Patrick Stewart played Claudius in the 1980 BBC Production depiction of Hamlet?”


Wrong move! Everyone knows that Patrick Stewart is an actor closely associated with Shakespeare, and an active member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The same goes for Leo DiCaprio as Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and Kenneth Branagh as Henry V in, well, Henry V. In other words, they’re old news. To impress that girl (or boy if you’re a girl), you’ll have to look elsewhere.  Fortunately for you, I have compiled here a list of six actors connected to Shakespeare with hella bitching roles in other movies.

6. Alfred Molina


He played Stephano in the 2010 remake of The Tempest. No news yet on when it’s coming out here in the Philippines, if at all, so I really can’t give my opinion on that. But he’s a pretty good actor, so I think it’s safe to say he did okay.

al molina as stephano

Missing the arms


Alfred Molina is probably best known by most members of this generation (like me admittedly) as Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2. What, I ask you, qualifies as “bitching” if not having six mechanical arms attached to your back? Also, he totally let Spider-man go that one time.


I’m not sure, but I get the feeling that Caliban would have been a lot nicer to him if he’d kept his mechanical arms.

5. William Shatner

Will ShatnerKNOWN FOR:

William Shatner was apparently trained as a Shakespearean actor. He was an active performer at the Stratford Festival of Canada when he was young and was a member of the cast of Henry V. One can only wonder if this Shakespearean training was what led to his (in)famous way of delivering lines, now called “Shatnerian”. Nowhere has this manner of speaking been more highlighted than in Shatner’s cover of The Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. While it isn’t directly related to William Shakespeare, I guarantee you, it is something you WANT TO WATCH.


Again with the generation gap. People my age probably only know him as the funny, fat, semi-senile guy from Boston Legal, and that’s actually not so bad, because he’s hilarious in that role. For another whole generation though, he was the one and only Captain Kirk, taking Spock and the rest of the USS Enterprise “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before”.

James T. Kirck



I think the Youtube video speaks for itself.

4. Sir Ian McKellan

sir ian mckellan


… Pretty much everyone. In his prolific career as a Shakespearean actor and as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Ian McKellan has played a truckload of characters ranging from Romeo, to Iago, to Macbeth, to King Lear and so on. In fact, I don’t even know what he’s doing on this list.


This is why.


Magneto! The undeniably bad ass Master of Magnetism from X-Men. Within the mythology of the film and comic series, Magneto is one of the most powerful mutants on Earth. Consider this: he can lift a freight train and throw it at your face. With his mind.



I think ANYTHING plus the powers of magnetism would have been pretty awesome.

3.  Robbie Coltrane

robbie coltrane


Robbie Coltrane actually played the role of Falstaff in the version of Henry V mentioned above, acting alongside Kenneth Branagh. Falstaff has a bigger role in this film version than in the original theatrical version, which worked out quite well, giving his character a little more depth.


Rubeus Hagrid from the Harry Potter series. From Hagrid’s first moment on screen (see below), where he tells Harry that (spoiler!) he’s a wizard, to his last moment on screen, coming to a theater near you on July 15, there’s been no doubt that this character will live on in the hearts of children for a long, long time. But enough about that. Hagrid is a half-giant, stands head and shoulders above most other men and can tear you up into little bits and cook you in his cauldron, and then turn you into rock cakes and serve you to Harry, Ron and Hermione for tea–not that he would. Also, he has a pet dragon.



Given the personalities of Hagrid and Falstaff, both described as big, happy guys, I don’t think combining them would be a problem. Let’s put it this way– If the Hogwarts Drama Club (which I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about) decided to put on a production of Henry V, everyone would know who would be playing Falstaff.

2. Andrew Garfield

andrew garfieldKNOWN AS:

At the tender age of twentysomething, Andrew Garfield was already a member of the Royal Exchange theater, where he played Romeo in a 2005 production.


He’s freaking Spider-man!

spider man


Make that the NEW Spider-man. Garfield plays the titular role in the Columbia Pictures reboot of the franchise. In the movie, he’ll be playing Peter Parker back in high school, first learning how to develop his spider-powers. He also has a snazzy new costume.

new spiderman costume

Dare I say... bitchin'?


Angsty teenager plus spider-powers? Nope, never heard of that before.

1. Russell Brand

russell brand


He played Trinculo alongside #6’s Alfred Molina in the 2010 version of The Tempest. Reportedly, he didn’t do to well though, but that’s okay, because…

al molina as stephano


He’s Mr. Katy Perry. ‘Nuff said.

katy perry

Russell Brand wins at everything forever.

Now the question is, so what? So what if all of these actors are associated with Shakespeare? Personally, I believe it has something to do with what we discussed in class: how being associated with Shakespeare gives off a certain perception of being upper class and stuff. Look at the examples– Alfred Molina and Sir Ian McKellan (not to mention Kenneth Branagh and Patrick Stewart) are some of the oldest and most respected actors today, and they both have Shakespearean backgrounds.  The same go

es for many other old actors with less bitching roles that I could have included in this list, like Glenn Close (Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians), Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins from the LOTR series),


Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins

Michael Gambon (Dumbledore from Harry Potter) and so on. But are they perceived as superior actors because of their Shakespearean background (i.e. bragging rights), or because they really are that good? I personally believe it’s the latter, because all of these actors and actresses really are actually good, but this doesn’t mean that Shakespearean roles don’t give some legitimacy to an actor.

Just take the last actor on the list as an example: Russell Brand. Previously just a stand-up comic, he broke into the big time with his role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and followed it up with Get Him to the Greek and Despicable Me. It’s evident that he’s started making a name for himself as an actor. So in line with that, it isn’t too hard to believe that he tried out for the part of Trinculo to add a Shakespeare to his resume. But of course, this is all speculation. We may never know.



I don’t own any of the pictures or videos included in this essay.



Categories: Multimedia Essays
  1. strobetrope
    March 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    :0 wickeddddddd

    Interesting point though! Undeniably, having Shakespeare in your resume can work like a trump card. Coming from the point of view of someone who’s tried acting/theater, it really feels like performing Shakespeare is a big feat, maybe because it is in “Shakespeare English” (hence an “alienation” with the language) and can be interpreted in so many ways so that if you can pull it off well then it shows you’ve got potential as a good actor. I guess that taking a Shakespearean role challenges you and makes you learn and grow too, so it’s good experience to have. But yeah, there are also the Greek dramatists D: Idk harhar I am a victim of Shakespeare the elusive “icon” and marketing conglomerate!

    • theb3nj
      March 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm

      I’m glad that someone with theater experience is affirming that point. Haha. It was a total guess on my part. Just a quick question– do you think it works both ways? Like, if you do a Shakespeare role well, then good for you, but if you do it badly, then you’re kind of screwed? Because Russell Brand reportedly kind of sucked in The Tempest… Haha.

      • strobetrope
        March 15, 2011 at 9:17 am

        Harharhar I don’t know about everyone else but I think so! I guess in the same way (if done well) it reinforces your credibility it also multiplies your fail-ness if done badly D: Maybe it can lead to idk, typecasting or what, like as an actor you can only do certain material. But I don’t think you end up screwed forever. There’s always room for take two, though critics probably would still bring it up whenever they evaluate your work. Harhar!

  2. humunahumuna
    March 16, 2011 at 1:57 am

    I know this comment won’t really be insightful but what the heck… I’m lovin the Cracked-esque article you got here.

    • theb3nj
      March 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks! That’s what I was going for, actually. Glad it got across. Haha.

  3. mjcshimada
    March 17, 2011 at 5:38 am

    Thumbs up for you, I enjoyed reading this 😀 Who would have thought that Hagrid could play Shakespearean?! (I wouldn’t)

    Anyway, it’s interesting how these actors are known not for their Shakespearean roles, yet are respected for it. I think it would be really entertaining to see big-time Hollywood actors. actresses play Shakespeare films (aside from Clair Danes and DiCaprio). I remember one class discussion, wherein we talked about how “sayang” it was not to have Filipino adaptations of Shakespeare plays, maybe when something comes up I’d find myself thinking back to this. *wishful thinking*

    Anyway, good job to you! 🙂

  4. March 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    This is so awesome Benj. 😀

    This blog makes me wonder what skills they have that these directors casted them for such Shakespearean roles. Sure they have played roles in well known movies hands down, but I also heard from some reviews that some of them weren’t so good portraying in these Shakespeare movies. 😐 So I also wonder what it says about them, not being able to pull off such roles. High expectations from Shakespeare fans maybe, I don’t know. 😐

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