On Wednesday morning, screenwriter John Orloff told Cinematical that 'Anonymous,' his upcoming collaboration with '2012' director Roland Emmerich, is going to change the way people see the former purveyor of big-screen disasters. "I think people are just going to think of Roland as an entirely different director after they see this film," John Orloff said via telephone. "I'm really, really enthusiastic."
Orloff's current project is 'Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole,' an adaptation of the first three installments in Kathyrn Lasky's novel series. He insists that 'Anonymous,' which chronicles an Elizabethan-era dispute over the ownership of Shakespeare's plays, is a one-of-a-kind movie, with or without Emmerich's career-changing participation. "It's 'All the President's Men' in Elizabethan England," he said. "It is a period piece, and it's the most complicated structure that I've ever written – one of the most complicated structures I've ever seen in a movie, actually. It's a really intense film."
Combining a period piece with a political thriller was not something Orloff necessarily set out to do, but the context of the ownership dispute, 'Anonymous' became this singular genre hybrid – albeit with Emmerich's muscular direction. "The goal was to tell the story of the authorship issue of Shakespeare's plays in a dramatic way, and that became a political thriller," he explained. "The movie becomes about the intersection of art and politics, and how does art affect politics, and ultimately, and this might sound cliché, but is the pen mightier than the sword? That's what the film is about, and there has never been a period movie made like this.
"We're using Roland [Emmerich's] knowledge of technology in making a film in a way that it's never been applied before," he revealed.
When asked how the two originally decided to team up, Orloff admitted he had some initial trepidation about working with a guy best known for documenting the fictional destruction of the entire world on a regular basis. "We met about the movie eight years ago, and he'd made 'The Patriot,' and I had written the script 15 years ago, and I had a little bit of trepidation – no question," Orloff confessed. "But he read the script and then he called me and told me how much he loved it, and we sat down and talked about it for two hours, and I said wow – he's really getting it. He went away and made 'The Day After Tomorrow,' and when he came back he had done all of this research about Elizabethan England and Shakespeare and the authorship issue, and it just became this amazing collaboration."
Orloff said that the two of them worked closely together to find a happy balance between Emmerich's spectacle and his own more sophisticated take on the story. "I ended up doing, I don't know, 15 drafts of changing the script from my original script to 'Anonymous,'" he said. "I was on the set every day with Roland, and it was an amazing, amazing experience. I think people are going to be quite shocked out of their minds when they see this movie. The performances are amazing, the subtlety, the direction.
"It's a really sophisticated film, and I think if you did not see the name Roland Emmerich, you would have no idea."