Steve Bannon’s obsession with Shakespeare’s goriest play.
Here’s the pitch: Titus Andronicus in outer space.
You might have forced a smile, sitting through a meeting with Steve Bannon during his Hollywood years in the early nineties. Today, as Trump’s chief advisor, the world’s second-most-powerful man designate has other scenarios to sell. But before Bannon was merely taking over the free world, he was bent on conquering Tinseltown, and he had a serious obsession: he wanted to make a movie version of Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s bloodiest revenge play, rife with murder, rape, and disembowelment.
Bannon succeeded, eventually. He optioned a well-reviewed but audience-challenged 1994 off-Broadway adaptation staged by Julie “Lion King” Taymor—putting Bannon, an investment banker, in the “Bard biz,” according to a story I reported in 1997, while on staff at Variety. But at the end of Bannon’s decade-long campaign to get his favorite play onscreen, victory was Pyrrhic. Titus, the twenty-five million dollar movie adaptation directed by Taymor, toplining Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange, and released by Fox Searchlight in 1999, laid an egg at the box office, grossing just over two million dollars. For Bannon—the movie’s executive producer and chairman of the board of First Look, the production company that raised all the money—it was a learning experience. Read More