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Dear Beloved Nerd Actors: No More Hamlets, Please

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Listen, I give all the props in the world to genre fiction for its persistent casting of stage actors in its projects. That said, we need to have a talk about how, having catapulted to fame through one such franchise, everyone feels the need to go do Hamlet. Stop doing Hamlet.

I call this the “Hello nerds, please see Shakespeare. It is expensive to do, but we know the power of fandom is strong” phenomenon. Sometimes the choice is a lesser-known Shakespeare play, like when Tom Hiddleston’s turn in C0riolanus was shown in theaters. Or when David Tennant and Catherine Tate did Much Ado About Nothing. But then, inevitably, there’s the run as Hamlet.


Everyone wants to direct Hamlet, everyone wants to be in Hamlet. So, when someone gets famous enough that their name is a draw, a director can mount the play and the actor finally gets to tackle the role of Hamlet, just like they always dreamed of doing. I personally have seen the David Tennant Hamlet (with a bonus Patrick Stewart), the Benedict Cumberbatch Hamlet, and the Oscar Isaac Hamlet. The first is a very good Hamlet, very traditional, fits all sizes. The second is one of the most painful nights of theater I have ever, ever, endured. I cannot stress enough how bad the Cumberbatch Hamlet was, although I don’t actually think that was his fault as much as it was the fault of the direction. Everyone was bad in it, although the staging was pretty. It’s the Prometheus of Hamlets: gorgeous and miserable. Isaac’s version was actually my favorite, but it was very “grad student assignment to reinterpret Hamlet.” He was great and also, importantly, did not wear pants for a fair bit of it. It may have been the longest version, but it was an easy sit, which is a hard thing to pull off with a play roughly the length of an American election cycle. This year, Hiddleston spent some time in Denmark and Riz Ahmed is in negotiations to do a Hamlet-based series for Netflix.

Stop. No more Hamlets.

I actually love Hamlet, because I am basic and like all the endless talking and wordplay. But if I see another press release for a Hamlet, I will scream. I’m not even saying everyone has to be all hipster about it and only perform works written by the world’s most obscure playwrights, but Shakespeare wrote a lot of plays and we have enough Hamlets.