''Richard II,'' ''Romeo and Juliet,'' ''Othello,'' and ''Hamlet'' are all being made into movies this year

By Jessica Shaw and Michael Picon
Updated May 19, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

If William Shakespeare were alive, he’d be negotiating points. Perhaps inspired by Keanu Reeves’ and Ralph Fiennes’ stabs at Hamlet, Hollywood’s got the Bard on the brain. Some of Will’s greatest hits are being turned into movies: Richard III, starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart; a contemporary Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Natalie Portman; Othello, featuring Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh; and Branagh’s in-the-works, full-length version of Hamlet. Branagh, who started the trend with 1989’s Henry V and continued it with 1993’s Much Ado About Nothing, says, ”Shakespeare uses all the buzzwords that are bandied about in studio meetings — incest, sex, sibling rivalry, foreign invasion, cannibalism.” Alas, this being Hollywood, a few liberties are sure to be taken. ”Romeo’s not going to be some fey chap. He’s a ’90s guy with darkness,” says director Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom). With this in mind,EW wondered what would happen if a few more Hollywood-ites decided a Shakespeare play’s the thing.