Hawkins, who starred last year in the movie musical “In the Heights,” enjoyed exploring the complicated dynamic between Macbeth and Macduff, which changes over the course of the film.
“Macduff looks up to Macbeth in the same way that I look up to Denzel Washington,” Hawkins, 33, said. “There’s a reverence there, and an honor for everything that he represents and what he’s done on the battlefield. For Macduff, he sees Macbeth (and) wants to maybe one day walk in that path.”
Washington began reading scenes and discussing ideas for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” with Coen and McDormand, who is also a producer on the film, months before they began rehearsals.
He and Hawkins both praised Shakespeare’s works for stretching actors beyond their comfort zones.
“I think it’s the most challenging,” Washington said. “It’s hard to figure out. It’s almost a foreign language. He’s the best storyteller, and they’re great, great parts.”
Hawkins believes the 1623 tragedy remains relevant four centuries later through parallels between the era’s kings and queens and present-day politicians, and is impressed by how the film modernizes parts of the story as well.
“Lady Macbeth should be able to be played at the point Frances is in her life,” Hawkins said. “Black people should be able to be on screen speaking Shakespeare in this way, on this level. It’s something we haven’t really seen before, in terms of leading a Shakespeare company on film.”
Washington, who earned Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations for his performance, also considers the themes of “Macbeth” to be timeless.
“Power. Lust. Greed. You know, all the things we love,” Washington said with a laugh. “That never gets old, right?”
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