Jim Jarmusch is a Shakespeare fan, not just of the works themselves, but of the theories surrounding their authorship. He is not sure who wrote the plays and sonnets. Perhaps Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, the man immortalized by Rhys Ifans in Roland Emmerich’s 2011 drama Anonymous, or perhaps Christopher Marlowe. Whoever it was Jarmusch is certain that it wasn’t William Shakespeare.
“It really doesn’t matter who wrote that stuff, in my opinion,” the filmmaker says. “It’s beautiful. In my opinion – along with Sigmund Freud, Orson Welles, Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain – none of them bought that Shakespeare thing. Come on, it’s ridiculous, if you do any research at all.”
Jarmusch’s love of Shakespearean theory is what led him to write in Marlowe as best friend to Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) in his new romantic drama Only Lovers Left Alive. Like the couple, Marlowe is a vampire. Hundreds of years after his supposed death, he is living the undead life in Tangier. More curious is that, according to the history books, the Elizabethan playwright was only 29 when he was murdered in 1593, but Jarmusch cast 74-year-old John Hurt to play him.
“Because Marlowe’s death, the more I researched it, it seems totally faked,” Jarmusch says. “I don’t believe in Marlowe’s death, so another conspiracy comes to light. And Marlowe is a possibility, so in this version I’m going with the Marlowe theory.
“It’s so crazy,” he adds “You mean Shakespeare wrote all that shit and there’s not a single manuscript of a single page. Where did it go? Come on! What is this? It’s the biggest conspiracy in literary history. I find it fascinating. Someday I might make a documentary on my Marlowe theory, but I don’t know. I snuck it in here.”
Only Lovers Left Alive may not convince the world that William Shakespeare didn’t write a thing and that it was Christopher Marlowe all along, but Jarmusch has made at least one convert: John Hurt.
“He hadn’t really researched it much,” Jarmusch says. “Now he’s definitely sure that Shakespeare wrote nothing. He’s pretty sure it wasn’t DeVere, but he’s reading everything, too. It’s just fun to get his mind going. He’s like, ‘Thank you! I now know Shakespeare didn’t write a thing!’
“I love it when Adam says, ‘Well, you still got the work out there, kid.’ It’s kind of like, ‘Well, you still did your job even though no one will know you wrote it ever.’” –Pam Grady