After premiering at the New York Film Festival and receiving a limited theatrical release on December 25, 2021, A24’s The Tragedy of Macbeth became available for streaming via Apple TV+ on January 14, 2022. Now the streaming service has released a short behind-the-scenes featurette with the cast and creatives, including stars Denzel Washington (Macbeth) and Frances McDormand (Lady Macbeth). Together they discuss the process behind making The Tragedy of Macbeth, working with director Joel Coen, and the unique visual style that is as integral to the film as William Shakespeare’s dialogue.
Though Macbeth is famously also known as “The Scottish Play,” that designation has no bearing on the film. According to the film’s composer Carter Burwell, “It doesn’t take place in any physical place, it takes place in the minds of the characters, in a psychological reality.” As vague as that might sound, Coen’s direction was cohesive enough that the crew was able to come up with a set of guiding principles. Costume designer Mary Zophres summarized the overall feel of the film as “highly defined, black and white, very geometric and very architectural.”
When it came time to cast the film, casting director Ellen Chenoweth went in search of someone who could play opposite McDormand, and found her options limited when it came to appropriate choices who could hold their own against the acting legend. On Washington’s desire to take the part, she said, “When Denzel said he would do it, it was kind of a miracle because he was classically trained, and he’s a huge movie star.” Beyond the two leads, the film boasts a very impressive cast which includes Corey Hawkins (MacDuff) and Brendan Gleeson (King Duncan).
The Tragedy of Macbeth is presented entirely in black and white, and according to the crew, it was shot in a way that approximated black and white as much as possible. Director of Photography Bruno Delbonnel said that it allowed the actors on set to get a sense of what the film would ultimately look like. Emphasizing the abstract nature of the film, Delbonnel added, “black and white already introduces some kind of abstraction.”
For as many times as Macbeth has been adapted to various mediums, according to Effects Supervisor Alex Lemke, Coen kept the change in the medium in mind, wanting to “make Macbeth into a film while preserving the theatrical experience of it.”
The Tragedy of Macbeth is streaming now on Apple TV+. Check out the featurette below:
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