Al Pacino Takes the Throne as ‘King Lear’

“King Lear” is one of those starring roles that actors are supposed to dread — at least according to my Shakespeare professor. Apparently, once you’re old enough to play Lear, you’re done and there are no more great roles left for you.

Either Al Pacino is comfortable with that, or he doesn’t bother with such silly fears, because Variety reports that he’s taking on the role of the aged king for Michael Radford. “Al has been offered this role many times over the years, but didn’t feel ready,” says the film’s producer Barry Navidi said. “He’s ready now.”

Working with Radford probably helps — the director and actor previously tackled Shakespeare together for “The Merchant of Venice” in 2004.

You know the story — “King Lear” is one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays, where an aged king decides to divide his kingdom up among his three daughters, offering the largest share to the one who loves him best. Two of his daughters connive and flatter him, while his youngest, Cordelia, refuses to put her affection to such a test. The story is a descent into atrocity and horror, and may just have the bleakest ending in all of literature.

We might treated to some off-camera drama as well — Pacino’s “Lear” is now the second in production, and will be a rival to Anthony Hopkins’ performance, who will play Lear for director Joshua Michael Stern, and be father to Keira Knightley, Naomi Watts, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Both productions are taking the traditional approach, and will be set in England’s Dark Ages. I sense a publicity race around the corner.

MTV readers, who is your preferred King Lear — Hopkins or Pacino? Which adaptation do you want to see more?