What’s In a Name? The Elsinore Gets New Moniker Just Days Before Opening

As reported here and elsewhere, I am designing The Elsinore at 17 Stanton Street  -but is this true? Alas, I must say no. In a daring move to correct a glaring problem, the players-to-be-named-later at 17 Stanton are dropping the name and opting to go with a new one. Named after the castle Elsinore from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the name didn’t get the desired traction, and hours before opening, the change has been made. I am sworn to secrecy about the new brand, but personally like it a lot more. I thought The Elsinore was an awful name and found few who liked it. On three separate occasions, people heard it and declared "they’ll call it El Snore". At BINGO the other night, a nightlife operator said it was "the worst name he had ever heard." I got all defensive but a thousand "I knows" would not have lessened the feeling of emptiness I felt that something I was building would be saddled with "Elsinore".

William Shakespeare, who I will refer to here as Billy, Willy, Will, the Common Bard, or the Bard of Avon said it best with his "What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." I double-checked the spelling of Billy’s last name and got this:
"During Shakespeare’s career as actor and dramatist, variations seemed to have had decreased considerably, and on many documents concerning Shakespeare’s land deals and theatrical company patents, the name is spelled Shakespere, although Shakspeare, Shakspere, Shackspeare, and Shakespeare also appear, often with multiple spellings occurring within the same document."
The 17 Stanton Street space, which is all blue and beautiful, will soon be known by its new name. The Elsinore will soon be forgotten, the sun, the stars, and the moon will rise and set, and the beautiful people will come and drink and be merry and embrace the change as they embrace all change. If they get a little confused or have to think about it too much, they’ll just pop another bottle. The castle Elsinore still stands in Denmark where it always has and will surely remain oblivious to the usurpers and their flock at 17 Stanton.
That movie Anonymous, and a whole lot of sharp people (not just internet conspiracy nuts), think Willy may not have written these plays at all. They think this dude Lord Edward de Vere may have been the real author.
The new name of 17 Stanton will be revealed today or tomorrow. As the Common Bard once said (maybe): "Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t." Before you go quoting Will at me with stuff like "Lord, what fools these mortals be!’ I’ll sling some Bard of Avon at you: "If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me." I agree, for "therin lies the rub" (attribute to Bill or Lord de Vere, your call). 
Will the new name have time to catch on as the joint opens in just a few days? Mr Shackspeare might have said "Boldness be my friend!" This is a bold move by experienced players. I heard their misgivings about the name The Elsinore and quoted Billy Bard at them: "For my part, it was Greek to me." Although something in the back of mind whispered Danish. I continued with another Williamism: "Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once." When asked what the hell that meant, I replied, "I’m never really sure with The Bard of Avon." I dug deep into Bill and spat out, "I am not bound to please thee with my answer." And doubled-up with "Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness"… to confuse them.
Someone sent for some CliffsNotes and slung these Bard bows and arrows at me: "The golden age is before us, not behind us," followed by, "If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottage princes’ palaces." I googled Will and offered "No legacy is so rich as honesty," and then quickly, "I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; A stage where every man must play a part, And mine is a sad one." I could have taken some words of Willy and offered them in The Elsinore’s defense: "Tis better to bear the ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of." I could have tried to make them pause, delay them from this deed with some Common Bard stuff like, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." I did not. I agreed with the change. I was sad to say goodbye to "The Elsinore" on some weird nostalgic level, but agree it was just a bad name. I believe that the place and the players will come out of this smelling sweeter than roses without that moniker.
The players weighed living with a name they didn’t love but losing some marketing steam or going with something new and grabbing some publicity (like this) to offset that. There is a lot more to this story, but my designer hat is stifling my writer hat.  I have read, indeed, my Shakspere and offer "the pattern of all patience; I will say nothing." I whipped up my Hamlet CliffsNotes and heeded the words from Act V, Scene ii: "The rest is silence."
Alas, poor The Elsinore – I knew him. I close with some predictable words from Lord Edward or William Shakespeare… "Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow."

Linkage: ‘Bling Ring’ Detective’s Motives Question, Anonymous’s Social Music Platform

Has Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring compromised the still-pending case it’s based on? Coppola has taken the LAPD detective who cracked the case on as a technical adviser, and the defense is concerned that his financial involvement is of issue to their case. “Clearly, it presents a conflict of interest if someone’s investigation becomes oriented toward creating a story or entertainment," the attorney explains. "It’s certainly going to taint the investigation’s motives and make them look unprofessional.” [LAT]

A group of coders claiming to be a part of the hacktivist group Anonymous have built a social music platform called Anontune that streams songs from elsewhere on the internet, so that you can make playlists and share favorites and so that they can keep above the law. [CNN]

Justin Bieber bought himself a pretty new bike. [TMZ]

Always provocative, Bonnie "Prince" Billy is releasing a limited-edition batch of condoms for Saturday’s Record Store day. And ten other, more musical, Record Day exclusives to keep an eye out for. [Stereogum]

In celebration of the date, a list of your favorite writers’ favorite writers — when they are high. [Flavorwire]

After weeks of wavering, Lionsgate has chosen Water for Elephants director Francis Lawrence to direct the Hunger Games follow-up Catching Fire. May the odds, Francis, be ever in your favor. [THR]

Will Anonymous Attack Facebook in Support of MegaUpload?

Break out the war drums! In apparent protest of the recent closure of file-sharing client MegaUpload, hacking collective Anonymous has announced its next target: Facebook. In a newly uploaded video titled "Anonymous Message On How YOU Can Be A Part Of #OpGlobalBlackout FAQ" (watch it after the click), plans for attacking the social media giant are discussed by a digitized narrator. "While it’s true that Facebook has at least 60,000 servers, it is still possible to bring it down," the narrator says over a techno beat. "Anonymous needs the help of the people, the people who want to take a stand against the government, the people who want to make a difference. This is what we must do, but first you much ask yourself: Are you part of the Anonymous consciousness?"

The gist of it is this: if you want to help, you have to download a program that will target Facebook’s servers if it’s triggered by thousands of people at the same time. The attack will go down at 12:00am on January 28th (time zone listed), if you’re so inclined. (If you don’t want to listen to the monotone voice, you can just read the video’s description.)

Really, it could be a hoax — there’s plenty of bad that could come from downloading a random program, and there are plenty who would like to see Anonymous suffer from a P.R. crisis. If it’s legitimate, it’ll be interesting to see if it goes off. Anonymous already attacked the Department of Justice and the RIAA a few days ago, but this would be a much larger war against a much larger opponent. Stay tuned and find out. (Personally, I don’t condone the attack, so don’t blame me if you download the program and it ends up filling your servers with Nyan Cat pornography.)

An ‘Anonymous’ Evening with Roland Emmerich

It was fitting that amidst a crush of stargazing tourists, we were sent by security to walk all the way around London’s Empire Theatre, only to end up five feet from where we had just been. We were there for the May Fair Hotel Gala, aka the premiere of Anonymous (which closed the BFI London Film Festival), a film that runs the viewer in circles around a thrillingly controversial literary assertion: that William Shakespeare was, essentially, a total fake. Once inside, and surrounded by the theater’s glorious 19th Century interior, director Roland Emmerich climbed onto the stage and commenced his speech.

“I surprised the studio that I wanted to make a movie about Shakespeare,” he recalled of the Columbia Pictures execs, who were probably waiting for a pitch about a computer-generated Earth vs. Mothra flick from the director of such blockbuster destruction films as Independence Day and Godzilla. “People think I’m about explosions,” he reckoned with admirable self-awareness, “but those who know me know that I love actors.”

As he proceeded to call a parade of hunky young stars up to the stage for a bow, it was clear that Anonymous would not be a study in Merchant-Ivory primness. Sebastian Amesto, Sam Reid, Jamie Campbell Bower, and Rafe Spall (as the so-called Bard himself) were followed by the always luminous Joely Richardson, who shares the role of Queen Elizabeth with her legendary mum, Vanessa Redgrave.

The film opens with a trick, a Derek Jacobi narration in a modern theatrical setting: “Let me tell you a different story…” Different story, indeed. Anonymous flits between 16th-Century decades to weave together a real-life premise that enrages literary traditionalists, the notion that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was the real author behind Shakespeare’s unparalleled oeuvre, and that Will was merely a well-paid front. The film also strips Elizabeth of some of her majesty and dignity, focusing more on her emotional volatility (Richardson plays her breathtakingly, like a teenager in heat), especially in affairs of the heart–and boldly invents a trio of illegitimate royal offspring. (Off with screenwriter John Orloff’s head!) Most shockingly, Shakespeare is painted us nothing more than an illiterate buffoon and mediocre actor; his scenes provide the only comic relief amidst all the traitorous betrayals and grim atmospherics.

Surprisingly for a studio film, Anna Foerster’s cinematography is chillingly gothic: rooms are dimly lit, landscapes feel desolate and threatening, and there’s a vividly violent scene in which several dogs and a bear are made to tear each other to shreds for the amusement of an assemblage of the Elizabethan betes noire. Anonymous is genuinely a visual triumph, especially for those with more lugubrious aesthetic inclinations, and grown tired of so many flouncy costume dramas.

L-r, Sam Reid, Xavier Samuel and Rhys Ifans star in Columbia Pictures' "Anonymous."

But the acting carries it. Rhys Ifans is a revelation as de Vere, effortlessly oscillating between icy cruelty and a noble and lofty defense of the sanctity of the written word. David Thewlis, possibly having learnt a few tricks on the Potter set from Alan Rickman’s Snape, is pure vitriol as William Cecil. And Armesto’s jittery and alternately sympathetic Ben Jonson–a mediocre playwright paid by de Vere for use of his name, who then pays Shakespeare for the same–provides the film’s plot pivot and moral pendulum, the man on whom the entire fate of theatre and poetry seems to rest. Of course, we know that its fate is secured.

Back at the glamorous May Fair Hotel (sometime home to Lady Gaga and full time home to provocative and punk-coiffed celeb chef Silvena Rowe, who oversees its venerated Turkish-mod Quince restaurant), we descended to the Crystal Room–whose massive Baccarat chandelier curiously resembled the alien invasion from Independence Day–to clink champagne glasses with the cast (minus Redgrave and Ifans) and director. Stealing a moment with Emmerich, we pressed him on the furor over Anonymous‘ polemical premise.

He shrugged, “I would like to say to those people, ‘relax’. Shakespeare belongs to everyone, he’s our Shakespeare.” Meaning, of course, that Oxbridge types tend to suffocate The Bard’s legacy under a blanket of uppity “purity.” In fact, we know little of his personal life, and thus the story is ripe for treatment with sundry artistic license.

“Luckily,” Emmerich observed, “we live in a democracy, where no one can censor ideas.” In other words, as Will himself might put it, it’s much ado about nothing much at all.


Xavier Samuel On ‘Twilight,’ ‘Anonymous,’ & Why Acting Is Like Sex

While in Berlin last year shooting Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous, Xavier Samuel decided to take advantage of a rare night away from set to hit the clubs with his younger brother, Benedict, who was visiting from the suburbs of Sydney. Samuel, who plays vampire Riley Biers in the galactically popular Twilight saga, wanted to cut loose, unnoticed, among the crowds. “We walked up to the door of one bar, and people started screaming at my brother: ‘Jamie! Jamie! Jamie!’” says the 27-year-old actor.

“So he started posing for pictures and signing autographs.” The throngs had mistaken Benedict for Jamie Campbell Bower, Samuel’s Anonymous costar, both of whom boast long, meticulously tangled heads of hair. “The next morning, there was a photo of Benedict and me in one of the papers over a caption that read, ‘Jamie Campbell Bower and friend in Berlin.’ And friend? Come on!” From the shrub-encased patio at Culina inside the Four Seasons Los Angeles, the Australian shakes his head and lets out a laugh.

It seems mistaken identity was in the air in Germany, where Samuel spent three months perfecting his British accent while channeling the Third Earl of Southampton, the man to whom, according to many Elizabethan scholars, Shakespeare addressed his sonnets. As the film’s tagline, “Was Shakespeare a fraud?,” suggests, Emmerich’s thriller centers on the popular theory that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, played by Rhys Ifans, ghostwrote many of the famed wordsmith’s plays. “It’s a bit elitist to argue that Shakespeare, a man from the working class, couldn’t have done it himself, but there are some strange coincidences that could make you lean toward de Vere as the writer,” says Samuel, who took the stage in productions of Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream during his studies at Rostrevor College and Flinders University Drama Centre in Adelaide. “There are so many theories,” he adds. “I’m sure that if you wanted to, you could find a reason to believe that Muhammad Ali wrote the plays. What’s more interesting to me is the tension between art and politics. Back then you put on a play to overthrow the government. Now you do a movie to get famous.”

A drama about authenticity and authorship set in Shakespearean England doesn’t exactly scream Emmerich, the German special effects enthusiast behind Independence Day, Godzilla, and 2012. But Samuel wasn’t worried about the director trying to arm Ben Jonson with an AK-47. “Sure, he’s a bit of a dark horse, but people seem to forget that the reason Independence Day worked so well was because we cared about those characters—even as everything around them was blowing up,” he says. “Explosions on their own don’t really matter if the audience doesn’t care about the story.” image

No franchise in recent history has catapulted a cast of unknown actors into superstardom with as much velocity as Twilight. In 2009, Samuel traveled to Vancouver to star alongside Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner in Eclipse, the second installment of the sunshine-averse saga. Although fans of the Cullen clan “never needed to be handcuffed or anything,” their advances were aggressive enough to force the cast out of their hotel and into a private residential compound. To enjoy their spare time, the actors had to get creative. “We’d have these strategic text conversations, like, ‘Okay, in 30 minutes let’s all meet at this place,’” Samuel says. “We even had lookalikes. When we’d all get to the meeting point, it was like, ‘Yes, we escaped!’”

Samuel, whose parents are teachers (“My dad used to say, ‘You can always go into law as a backup’”), has been acting professionally for almost a decade now, ever since appearing in an episode of the Australian series McLeod’s Daughters. Still, he talks about his recent films with the enthusiasm of a newcomer. He refers to his costars as “just-add-water families.” He describes Anonymous as a “totally awesome film—really, really awesome.” Working opposite Ifans was a near-ecstatic experience. “Acting is like sex,” he says. “It’s possible if your partner is bad, but it’s better if they’re good. And Rhys, well, he’s probably one of the most generous actors I’ve ever worked with.”

Minutes from now, Samuel will drive out to Venice Beach, where he’s learning to carve waves for Drift, a surf movie he’s soon to start filming alongside fellow Aussie Sam Worthington. “What’s next?,” however, is a question he’s come to loathe, even though he’s already got two more films—A Few Best Men (a wedding farce he likens to Bridesmaids) and Bait (a horror film about vicious tiger sharks and tsunamis)—in the can. As it turns out, this aversion to looking to the future stems from his recent past. “I was doing a play in Sydney, and David Field, a really respected Australian actor, came to the show. I made the fatal error of saying, What are you doing next? He was like, ‘I’m fucking changing nappies, you fucking cunt. What are you fucking doing?’” Samuel reclines in his chair and lights the cigarette he’s been rolling. After exhaling a thick cloud of blue smoke, he asks, “Why look ahead when you can stop and appreciate the moment?”


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