Phone Message Transcript: August 3, 1997
[appearing on Anne's fan phone line]

" August 3rd, 1997. Anne Rice here. Finished watching Kenneth Branagh's HAMLET. I didn't get to see it when it was in the movie theaters. I got a rental tape tonight. I don't want to return it--I'd rather go to jail! I'm going to do everything I can to get the laser disc of it and the other forms. But this is one of the most magnificent films I have ever, ever seen. I mean, this and EVITA were fantastic. I mean, both films were incredible. And go out...if you haven't seen this film...and rent it and see it, and later buy copies of it and save them. I'm going to buy copies for school teachers all over New Orleans. I'm going to take them to schools and say just get the kids to watch the film. I mean, Kenneth Branagh has always know...well, since he started, one of our finest interpreters of Shakespeare. I believe he began with HENRY V and then on with a comedy in Italy, the name of which i cannot remember, but it was very, very good. And it's a comedy I've seen many, many times, and I ought to know what it is. But anyway...MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING...I think that's the name of it. Then he went on to star in, but not direct, an OTHELLO with Laurence Fishburne. That was a work of genius. And Laurence Fishburne was absolutely fabulous. And he has done this HAMLET and it is absolute genius what he's done. First of all, it is totally uncut. For the first time, I heard speeches and lines, and the bases for option and motivation that I had not understood before. So, Hamlet, for the first time in my life, experiencing this play...and I had seen the play many times...and for the first time Hamlet emerged as a hero in this play, instead of a rather off-putting, indecisive adolescent. No, we've had other great Hamlets--I don't want to make insidious comparisons--I think we really have. I think Mel Gibson's Hamlet is quite fine, and while it's marvelous in many respects, you know everybody in that film was good. Olivier's Hamlet, I grew up with. I loved it. You know, there have been others, and I'll scold myself later for not mentioning them, but Kenneth Branagh has just done something brand new. He goes out with the guts of a young Orson Welles, or Giuseppi Verdi, or Shakespeare himself. He just takes on things that you would think would be impossible, and he succeeds. I mean, first of all, a great deal of the film focuses on him, and he is a magnificent actor. He is gorgeous, he is beautiful, he articulates Shakespeare so that school children can understand the words. And his direction is always exciting. It's cinematically just brilliant. And the other thing in this Hamlet that happens, because he does not cut it...because he does not cut Shakespeare and try to adapt it--everybody has his or her moment. It's just wonderful! You hear speeches from characters that are generally cut out of the versions that you see. Everybody has a chance, sort of. I mean, when it comes to Ophelia's death, for example, they chose not to picture it, which disappointed me at first. But what I realized was they were giving the moment to Julie Christie, as she described it. I mean, that's what Branagh was doing, and that is the mark of a great director and a great actor. When you not only do your finest in a role, and in your job, but you see to it that everybody else gets his or her best moment. I thought it was just incredible! I cannot tell you! It makes me furious that the film did not win hosts of Academy Awards. I don't understand it. I don't know...there may be some story behind it...but at this point, the way America has ignored EVITA and HAMLET, and Kenneth Branagh in general, I would say it makes a good case for the Academy Awards being abolished. For the whole Academy just to declare itself null and void, and move out to Malibu and have cocktail parties on the beach! I mean, I'm brimming with happiness for the Coen Brothers when they win an Oscar, and I love John Travolta and lots of people---I'm glad to see them happy--but to ignore a film like HAMLET and to ignore a film like EVITA the Academy is really, at this point, a destructive force in life because far too much emphasis is being placed on choices. It's just a big party and a crap shoot, and it's now functioning in a destructive way. If course, I'm not suggesting we censor it. I'm not a terrorist, and I'm not going to do anything to it, but I really think we ought to start looking for some other public way on television to evaluate films some kind of consistent way. I mean, this film is just a once in a lifetime experience, and definitely get and save it and keep it. And there are many, many things to watch for in it. I would say the soliloquy "to be or not to be" is the best I have ever heard anyone do that. Even the laugh lines are left in, like "something is rotten in Denmark", which is usually cut for good reasons. And they work. But the acting, over and over again, it's the acting, the emotion, the tremendous emotion the people put into their role, and Branagh's ability to just keep the film moving--I can't praise it enough. I can't praise it enough! It has the grandeur of an opera, it has the balls of a bull, it's just fabulous! If we don't start treating Kenneth Branagh better in America, if we don't start giving him the respect that he is due...I mean, I think we're going to pay for it, you know. We have not praised him sufficiently. We have not received his talent enough. I mean, people do praise him, and they are successful...they do. I'm not saying he's a failure, by any means. I think everybody who's seen Shakespeare knows Kenneth Branagh's name, and they know what a good guy he is, but we don't give him the credit he deserves. I mean, this man is truly a genius. He..."

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