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Danny Boyle's Frankenstein: A Model For The Movies?

Posted on Sunday April 10, 2011, 11:29 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
Danny Boyle's Frankenstein: A Model For The Movies?

First, full disclosure: we here at Empire have a longstanding love affair with Danny Boyle. The director has come in to webchat for his last three films (he came in for Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) and he's been great company on all three occasions. But that's not why I'm blown away by his stage production of Frankenstein at the National Theatre, which is on right now. If this play had been directed by a complete git, it would still be an absolute kicker of a show.

I know, I know, a cacophany of praise has already greeted the production. If I were a journalist worth my salt, I'd find meat to complain about. But while I could nitpick (when I saw it live, one of Naomie Harris' lines was flat! At one moment, Jonny Lee Miller was turned too side-on to the Creature rather than facing him! When I saw the broadcast, the camera wobbled once! And the sound cut out briefly!) it would be very much a case of looking a gift horse in the mouth. This is one of those shows that does pretty much everything right, dazzling both technically, thespically (?) and theatrically overall.

Before watching Cumberbatch as the Creature in the theatre, and seeing Miller's Creature on live broadcast as part of the NT Live initiative, I thought it would be easy to spot the better of the two. But while there are differences, there's barely a whisper in quality between the pair. Cumberbatch's Victor Frankenstein is perhaps a touch more arrogant, a touch more misanthropic; Miller's Creature maybe a little more desperate in his quest for someone to love him while Cumberbatch's felt a teensy bit more fierce*. Since none of those approaches work anything less than brilliantly and since there's a hair's difference in it, you really have to want to praise one and slag off the other.

The whole role-swapping thing is rather fascinating, as long as you have actors who are capable of getting equally good reviews (I imagine the atmosphere backstage might get rather difficult had one had raves and the other pans). And it's tempting and rather amusing to imagine how it would work in other media. What if Starsky & Hutch had traded roles every week? Or Riggs and Murtaugh? Imagine: every other film, Mel Gibson could've tried being too old for this shit, and Danny Glover could've had a fresh love interest.

OK, so that's not something any film franchise is ever going to do. Still, it's amusing to speculate, and I look forward to hearing your suggestions of other swap-capable roles.

*Then again, there's a difference between watching a theatrical performance even from good seats and seeing the medium close-ups of the broadcast version. Miller might have seemed to have a more compassionate take on the Creature because we could see his face more clearly.

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1 nclowe
Posted on Sunday April 10, 2011, 20:46
I'm seeing this next Sunday and cannot wait! :D

2 IamtheGoblin
Posted on Monday April 11, 2011, 07:51
Coming soon from director Joss Whedon... The Avengers!


Robert Downey Jr. as Hawkeye
Samuel L Jackson as the Hulk
Chris Hemsworth as Captain America
Chris Evans as Iron Man
Jeremy Renner as Maria Hill
Mark Ruffalo as Nick Fury

etc etc

3 franpeterson
Posted on Monday April 11, 2011, 12:57
Saw it on Friday. Absolutely blew me away!

4 Crazy 88
Posted on Monday April 11, 2011, 14:38
a Superbad sequel would be interesting if Jonah Hill and Michael Cera swapped characters, although i cant see Cera playing anything but awkward...

a Dark Knight sequel with Batman and The Joker swapping...oh no, wait.....

5 Crazy 88
Posted on Monday April 11, 2011, 14:39
a Superbad sequel would be interesting if Jonah Hill and Michael Cera swapped characters, although i cant see Cera playing anything but awkward...

a Dark Knight sequel with Batman and The Joker swapping...oh no, wait.....

6 acertree
Posted on Monday April 11, 2011, 17:06
Actually after watching the play twice at the National and also via NT live in the cinema I feel briefed enough to say Cumberbatch gives the far superior performance in both roles. Far more complex and fleshed out. Infact Jonny's Victor is actually quite poor.

7 Gazme
Posted on Monday April 11, 2011, 20:56
Jeff Bridges as Donny with John Goodman as The Dude and Steve Buscemi as Walter?

That...well actually that would probably be hilarious in every way.

8 rgod
Posted on Monday April 11, 2011, 21:45
When will we see Jonny Lee Milller on the big screen again ,
Or is stage work a big part of his life for a now? .
I realize that it is an extra merit and hones ones skill as an actor but surely having a theatrical background will keep you in that position if you are any good at it , Or am I talking Complete nonsense again ?
Of his repertoire All I can remember is Hackers,trainspotting and I think he starred in Plunkett and Maclaine or was that just a TV adaptation ?
Was he in "Wanted"?

9 RhysEdwards
Posted on Tuesday April 12, 2011, 00:46
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid... Newman for Redford?

Hey, it nearly happened!

10 lankeymarlon
Posted on Tuesday April 12, 2011, 09:11
There is a funny sketch in the first series of The Mitchell and Webb Look about 2 actors who would swap roles and it got increasingly more frequent that they end up swapping everytime there is a camera change.

11 Rhos
Posted on Tuesday April 12, 2011, 11:00
yay!! glad you did a report of this AMAZING PRODUCTION! sadly, ive only saw the NT Live broadcast of Benedict Cumberbatch's creature, WHICH WAS THE BEST PERFORMANCE I HAVE EVER SEEN! *sighs
Why not make a film version of this? Could realise both performances, and sell them seperately? or add the alternate performance on the special contents on the DVD? there's gotta be a DVD of this soon!!

12 Cat5
Posted on Tuesday April 12, 2011, 12:51
Lucky enough to see this on NT Live and thought Miller's Creature was superb and Cumberbatch's Victor was unsettlingly arrogant.

Role swapping for film - how about Robert Downey Jnr and Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?

13 musebaby
Posted on Sunday April 24, 2011, 22:43
Ive seen both versions and Benedict Cumberbatch is much much better in both roles. They need to do a film with him playing both roles!!!!!!!!

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