Where there’s a Will there’s a play! Or in this case timeless Oscar-winning film Shakespeare In Love, which Londonist is screening on 21 December as a pre-Christmas treat guaranteed to warm you up before you head home to see family and eat, drink and be merry — then eat again, drink again and feel a bit sick.
Join us in the atmospheric tunnels under Waterloo station where Underground Film Club have their very own Christmassy cinema — all red velvet chairs and twinkly lights — to watch the classiest romantic comedy of the last 20-odd years.
Tom Stoppard’s script is still brilliant and the recreation of Elizabethan London looks epic on the big screen. From the sloppy, sleazy streets of Cheapside to the Thames full of wise-cracking watermen to the grand wooden theatres, The Rose and The Globe, it is a truly fantastic vision of the city.
The story revolves around a young Shaky, on the edge of success if only he could cure his writer’s block, who finds himself caught up in a forbidden romance with Viola de Lesseps, a noblewoman betrothed to a very angry Colin Firth. Cue cross-dressing, comedy, tragedy, mystery and multiple exits pursued by a dog.
And while you think you may know the film, here's some pub quiz ready trivia that maybe you didn't:
- Gwyneth Paltrow nabbed the role of Viola from under the nose of her then-bestie Winona Ryder — she saw the script in her office, took a sneak peek then went for an audition without telling her. Paltrow won an Oscar, but the two have not been friends since.
- Judi Dench also won an Oscar for best supporting female actor but didn’t have to work half as hard as Paltrow, she shows up in the film as Queen Elizabeth for a mere six minutes (that’s presence).
- On set the director John Madden nick-named Dench “Tudor Spice" because she had to wear such high heels — and at the end of the shoot she was given the full-sized replica set of the Rose Theatre as a gift.
- Joseph Fiennes plays Will, but during the film’s long gestation, other actors considered for the part included Kenneth Branagh, Daniel Day-Lewis, Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck.
- Affleck appears nevertheless as Edward ‘Ned’ Alleyn, a real actor from Shakespeare's time who went on to set up Dulwich College and Alleyn's School (Affleck apparently cared less about this and more about keeping an eye on Paltrow who was his girlfriend at the time).
- Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter, who are married in real life, both play nurses in the movie — one who assists Viola, the other on the stage in Romeo and Juliet.
Alongside the movie, there’ll be a bonus short about how hard it is to get love right in the modern age and we’ll be there in person to meet you and introduce the night.
And in the warren of tunnels around Underground Film Club you can also get gourmet hotdogs and deluxe waffles or drink ridiculously good cocktails and hot toddies. You can also tee off at Birdies Crazy Golf (the place is so good we’re having our Londonist Christmas party down there).
Shakespeare In Love is on 21 December at 8pm. Tickets £15 (food, drink and golf are all extra).