Michael Radford to direct film

Al Pacino will play the title role in “King Lear,” an adaptation of the Shakespeare play that will be directed by Michael Radford.

Radford, who wrote the script, is making his second Shakespearean foray with Pacino after their 2004 collaboration “Merchant of Venice,” which cast Pacino as Shylock.

Pic will be produced by Barry Navidi, who teamed with Pacino on “Merchant” as well as the upcoming “Salomaybe?,” which Pacino directed and stars in. That film, based on the Oscar Wilde play, is in post-production.

While Pacino has played many Shakespearean characters, he has never played King Lear, the aging monarch who selects his successor by parsing his kingdom in three parts, ruled by his trio of daughters. Two of them are scheming connivers who flatter their father, while the one loving daughter, Cordelia, refuses to play that game and is exiled. The king ultimately loses everything.

“King Lear” has been filmed several times with Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles and Paul Scofield among those in the title role.

Radford will shoot the picture entirely in Europe, starting later this year. Pic is being financed out of the U.K. and Northern Ireland.

“Al has been offered this role many times over the years, but didn’t feel ready,” Navidi said. “He’s ready now. The film will be true to its period, very similar to the classical look of ‘Merchant of Venice.’ Michael came up with the most brilliant adaptation and Al and I flipped for it.”

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