Kurtz and Hall announced the project on Wednesday, the 425th anniversary of the death of Marlowe at the age of 29. Marlowe is best remembered as William Shakespeare’s friend and rival, but the film will explore the aftermath of his role as a spy for the British crown while a student at Cambridge University.
Marlowe wrote “The Jew of Malta,” “Edward the Second” and “Doctor Faustus.” His death has long been assumed to have been as a result of a fight between friends over a bar bill. But, according to the filmmakers, he was assassinated as a matter of state policy because of his involvement in secret affairs.
The script, by Francis Hamit, details Marlowe’s career as a spy as part of the early English Secret Service, which fought a bitter war with Catholics, who wanted Elizabeth I assassinated and Mary, Queen of Scots, placed on the throne instead. Even after Mary was executed, the threat persisted and resulted in Elizabeth’s seeking to control every aspect of English life and culture through, in part, an extensive system of spies and censorship.
Marlowe’s own rebellion included preaching atheism and openly bragging about his own homosexuality at a time when other men were burned at the stake for it. As he was the most famous playwright of his day, he was too well-known and popular to be tried and executed publicly, so, according to the filmmakers, he was secretly assassinated by his fellow secret service agents.
“Marlowe is a tragic figure, undone by his own fatal flaws,” Hamit said. “Despite the passage of time, it is a story which will resonate with today’s audiences.”
Hall said, “The storyline is quite dynamic. It’s more about the secret underworld of spies and criminals that Kit Marlowe embraced at the same time he was social climbing with very prominent men, such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Walsingham, the Secretary of State and most powerful man in England. It is going to be a very exciting production and we are casting it now.”
Plans are to make the film mostly in Wales this fall. North American distribution has been assigned to Lightyear Entertainment in Los Angeles. Arnie Holland, Lightyear’s CEO, is an executive producer along with Michael John Donahue and Craig Miller, CEO of Wolfmill Entertainment.
Besides the original “Star Wars,” Kurtz’ producing credits include “American Graffiti,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “The Dark Crystal” and “Return to Oz.” Hall’s breakthrough debut drama was “The Plague” in 2006, followed by “Kapital,” “Communion” and “Bonded by Blood 2.” Hamit is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, has published two historical spy novels set at the time of the American Civil War, and is working on a memoir about military intelligence during the Vietnam War.
(Pictured: Illustration of Doctor Faustus conjuring Mephistopheles.)