CANNES — Kenneth Branagh has confirmed that “Macbeth” will be the second film produced by his Shakespeare Film Co. under its three-pic deal with Intermedia.

With “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in post-production, Branagh told Daily Variety that he plans to start shooting “Macbeth” this fall at London’s Shepperton Studios.

Branagh is scripting his adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy and will play the title role as the Scottish nobleman who murders his way to the throne. No other cast is yet attached.

Another helmer?

But in a departure from his previous practice, Branagh may hand over directing chores to another helmer. “We’ve been talking to some other people, but at the moment it’s possible that I still might end up directing it, depending on how the script goes,” he said.

Branagh also confirmed that Miramax Films and Pathe Pictures, which co-financed “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” are also likely to be involved with “Macbeth,” although no deal has yet been signed.

After interpreting “Love’s Labour’s Lost” as a 1930s musical, he is trying to make his “Macbeth” even more modern.

“It’s one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays, and it will be a short, tight film,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to make this completely contemporary in feel. With each Shakespeare film I’ve moved forward in history, and my last film was set in the ’30s, so maybe with this one I’ll get to the present day.”

Branagh described “Macbeth” as “a rather horrifying mirror of our age,” particularly in the way witchcraft obsesses its characters. “The superstition at the heart of the play seems to have gripped us, especially as we approach the millennium,” he explained. “The world seems enslaved to horoscopes, new age philosophy, signs. There’s this ongoing dread of what’s going to happen at the end of the year.”

Modern echoes

He also finds modern echoes in “the desperation, the lust for power, the lust for acquisition” which drive Macbeth. But Branagh is determined to retain the “primal, tribal energy” of the play’s Dark Ages setting.

“You have to make sure that the contemporary setting and feel doesn’t diminish the ideas. It has to be set in a world where murder, war, witchcraft, superstition and sex are at the forefront of everyone’s experience.”

Branagh said he has “a cunning plan” that he believe will solve this creative conundrum, as well as the question of how closely to stick to the play’s Scottish identity. However, he is keeping the details close to his chest.

The film will again be designed by Tim Harvey, who worked on “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” and will be produced by Branagh’s regular partner David Barron. Branagh expects to complete the screenplay within the next month.