Grand Shakespearean roles demand actors of specific ages or age ranges. Hamlet has to be played by young (or at least young-seeming) actors, Macbeth is a role for actors in their 30s or early 40s, and King Lear is something you tackle in your 60s or 70s.
It is therefore grotesque to imagine Washington, 64, and McDormand, 61, as the original hungry, ambitious climbers. The trouble the Macbeths get into is par for the course for ruthless Type-A couples in their 30s or early 40s. People in their 60s are generally past that jazz.
The oldest Macbeth I’ve ever seen was Peter O’Toole, 48, in that 1980 Old Vic production. And O’Toole tried like hell to look younger, trust me. Heaps of makeup. I caught a performance so don’t tell me.
All the other Macbeths have been younger. Jon Finch was 28 or 29 when he starred in Roman Polanski‘s 1971 Macbeth. Orson Welles was 33 when he starred in his 1948 film adaptation. Michael Fassbender was 37 or 38 when he starred four years ago in Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth.
Washington and McDormand’s performances will of course kick ass, but that’s not the issue. There’s just no believing that people of their age would be so completely consumed by mad ambition, spooky visions and witch cauldrons. They should play the parents of this famous couple, counseling caution and restraint.
The film will be directed by Joel Coen, produced by Scott Rudin and distributed by A24.