All the Bard's a film script for Hollywood directors

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THE OLDEST adage in Hollywood still rings true. If it works, make a sequel, or at least a copy. After the success of Shakespeare In Love, a follow-up is now under consideration.

Meanwhile, every producer worth his salt is starting to see pound and dollar signs in iam-bic pentameters. One can almost imagine the "pitches" taking place from scriptwriters and producers to studio chiefs. But why fantasise? The actual Shakespearean films on their way to our cinemas include concepts more bizarre than any satirist could imagine.

With Othello apparently not crisp enough a title, we will soon see a film called O, which tells of a drama between two high school basketball warriors. In a new version of Hamlet the Prince's name is unchanged; but just about everything else will be. Ethan Hawke plays the Dane in Manhattan. And Julia Stiles is an army-boot-clad Ophelia. The action is set in the corporate world of New York where Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, and stepfather, Claudius, are in a "Ted Turner-Jane Fonda situation", according to Hawke.

Titus, a film based on Titus Andronicus, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange and Alan Cumming and directed by Julie Taymor, is due to be released at the end of the year. It is set in Rome, like the original, but in case that seems too distant, Ms Taymor explains: "Titus is a great general. He could be Colin Powell or Norman Schwarzkopf." A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett and Calista Flockhart (TV's Ally McBeal), is set in Tuscany. The publicity handout promises: "Water nymphs and satyrs party into the night at the fairy bars and cafes." Kenneth Branagh has just finished shooting a song and dance version of Love's Labour's Lost, and will soon begin work on a film version of Macbeth, followed by As You Like It. And then there is the biggest potential grosser of them all. Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein is reported to be considering a sequel to Shakespeare In Love. Miramax would not confirm this but at last week's Baftas Mr Weinstein was seated next to the film's star Gwyneth Paltrow and was in earnest conversation with her for most of the night. The British producer of Shakespeare In Love, David Parfitt, was circumspect yesterday in discussing the possibility of a sequel. "Harvey mentioned it to me at the end of shooting, but at the time it was more of a joke," he said.

"I would love to work with them all again but I can't envisage a conventional sequel. The original story was stretching things a bit as it was."