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During an on-the-record lunch with journalists at the Sony Building, in Midtown Manhattan, 'Anonymous' director Roland Emmerich said he agreed with the decision to scale back the movie's theatrical release from thousands of theaters to just a few hundred for a simple reason: "It was my idea."

"If this had been a different studio, the idea probably would have come up sooner," he said, adding that he consulted with Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, the heads of Sony's art-house division, Sony Classics, before recommending the change. Their suggestion: open the movie in 10 theaters.""I said, 'Well, it's a nice idea but we've spent too much on advertising,'" Emmerich recalled. In the end, Sony decided to open the movie in 250 movies next Friday and expand the run to 500 the following week.

Emmerich also revealed the strategy he used to persuade Sony to let him release an arty film about Shakespeare instead of another big-budget alien blockbuster: "I said, 'I deserve it,'" noting that his 2009 apocalyptic thriller, '2012,' earned more than $700 million worldwide for the studio. Still, don't expect him to steer of the multiplex going forward: his next film, he said, will be a sci-fi with the working title 'Singularity,' about the melding of men and machines.

At the lunch, Rhys Ifans, who stars in 'Anonymous' as the mysterious and well-connected aristocrat Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, said he had no qualms about undercutting the slacker image he's earned in movies like 'Greenberg': "It's not a leap for me, it's a relief." Also a relief for Ifans: working in Germany, where Emmerich's ultra-efficient crew completed the demanding 61-day shoot with four hours to spare.

But perhaps the most amusing nuggets came from Joely Richardson, who plays a young Queen Elizabeth I to the older version portrayed by her mother, Vanessa Redgrave. Since her character was supposed to be in her 20s or 30s, Richardson, who is 47 years old, was subjected to a series of age-defying devices. "There were tricks going on under my wig, and there was actually a neck thing," pulling back her skin, she said. "It was actually really fun, and the only sad thing was when they took it off."

Richardson also informed Emmerich that her mother had perpetrated a minor act of insubordination during one scene, when she insisted on affixing a Tudor rose to her dress in a manner that Richardson felt was over-the-top. "I saw that and thought, 'You naughty, naughty girl.' It looks wrong. It's a real Vanessa-ism." Emmerich just laughed in response.

"I like her at her simplest," Richardson said. "Then she has this quality that I call 'the soul of an age.'"

For more on 'Anonymous,' check out Moviefone's interview with screenwriter John Orloff about whether or not Shakespeare was actually a fraud.

[Photo: Sony/Columbia Tri-Star]



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