ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – William Shakespeare sure loved a doomed heroine. Some of the Bard’s most famous women — Juliet, Desdemona, Lady Macbeth — all met with a grisly fate, but few are as iconic as Hamlet’s Ophelia, who goes mad with heartbreak and drowns herself in a river. While Hamlet’s insanity and demise have been explored countless times since the play’s publication in 1603, much of Ophelia’s story happens off stage. Claire McCarthy’s new film Ophelia, led by Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley, aims to change that — and reimagine the character as a bold, complicated young heroine.

It’s a radical reinvention for a woman who’s most frequently portrayed in art and literature as a docile, waif-like beauty, driven mad by love and passively accepting her watery death.

“That’s often how women have been portrayed in storytelling — as the damsel in the distress,” says Naomi Watts, who plays Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude. “If their mind is powerful, it must be madness. And now there’s this shift that’s taking place, and that’s reflected in this storytelling.”

Based on Lisa Klein’s novel and premiering this month at the Sundance Film Festival, Ophelia follows its lowborn protagonist as she becomes the most trusted lady-in-waiting for Gertrude and strikes up a relationship with her son, Hamlet (George MacKay). Along the way, Ophelia gets caught up in the court’s deadliest betrayals and secrets, all while trying to find her own path. “We wanted her to feel a lot more empowered and a lot more visceral than the original Ophelia, who is really only in a handful of scenes,” McCarthy (The Waiting City) says. In other words, this Ophelia is more concerned with her own destiny than Hamlet’s emo mopiness. Ophelia’s new direction also gives the 400-year-old play new relevance in 2018. “There’s real currency in the fact that Ophelia was the victim, and now she’s been recast as the hero,” Watts says.

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‘Ophelia’ will have its world premiere during the Sundance Film Festival. The festival will take place around Park City, Utah, on January 18-28.

Ophelia / United Kingdom (Director: Claire McCarthy, Screenwriter: Semi Chellas, Producers: Daniel Bobker, Sarah Curtis, Ehren Kruger, Paul Hanson) — A mythic spin on Hamlet through a lens of female empowerment: Ophelia comes of age as lady-in-waiting for Queen Gertrude, and her singular spirit captures Hamlet’s affections. As lust and betrayal threaten the kingdom, Ophelia finds herself trapped between true love and controlling her own destiny. Cast: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George MacKay, Tom Felton, Devon Terrell. World Premiere

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Daisy Ridley is the forbidden love of Hamlet in The Hollywood Reporter’s exclusive first-look image of Ophelia.

Set in the 14th century but spoken in a contemporary voice, Ophelia is a dynamic re-imagining of the Shakespeare’s tragedy that tells the untold story of her tragic romance with the prince.

Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George MacKay, Tom Felton and Devon Terrell also star in the film, which follows Ophelia as the Queen’s (Watts) most trusted lady-in-waiting. Beautiful and intelligent, she soon captures the attention of the handsome Prince Hamlet (MacKay) and a forbidden love blossoms.

Owen plays Claudius, Felton plays Laertes and Terrell will play Horatio.

Directed by Claire McCarthy, the adaptation comes from Lisa Klein’s book and Semi Chellas wrote the screenplay. Daniel Bobker, Sarah Curtis, Paul Hanson and Ehren Kruger are producing.

Covert Media is handling international sales at the Cannes Film Festival. CAA is handling domestic rights.

DEADLINE – Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts are in final talks to star in Ophelia, a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic Hamlet through the eyes of the play’s famously doomed heroine. Covert Media has boarded to finance and handle international sales at Cannes.

In Shakespeare’s play, Ophelia is one of only two female characters along with that of Gertrude. She is gradually driven mad by Hamlet’s erratic behavior towards her, especially, as well as those around him. Unbeknownst to her, he also kills her father Polonius. Overcome by grief, Ophelia is later found drowned. It is not entirely clear in the play if she killed herself or simply suffered an accident. As per Gertrude’s poetic summation of her death, one of literature’s most evocative passages, Ophelia was “incapable of her own distress.”

The project is based on the award-winning novel by Lisa Klein, which Semi Chellas (Mad Men) has adapted. Claire McCarthy (The Waiting City) will direct. Daniel Bobker and Ehren Kruger (The Brothers Grimm) are producing. CAA packaged and arranged financing and will handle the domestic sale.

“Set in the 14th century but spoken in a contemporary voice, Ophelia will put the titular character center stage. Sarah, Ehren and I have always treated this film like a jewel, since there’s something extra precious in bringing to life a treasured female icon, celebrated for centuries as an alluring figure in the shadows of Shakespeare’s most famous work, without ever really having her own story told,” said Bobker.

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