A new, epic feature film about Christopher Marlowe, perhaps best remembered as William Shakespeare’s friend and rival, is in the works from British crime film director Greg Hall and producer Gary Kurtz, who is best known for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Marlowe, while a student at Cambridge University, becomes a spy for the crown and the greatest playwright of his day, but the much darker truth involves real-life intrigue, politics, religion and espionage. May 30th was the 425th anniversary of the tragic early death of Marlowe on this date in 1593, at the age of 29, which has long been assumed to have been because of a fight between friends over a bar bill. In reality, due to his involvement in secret affairs, he was assassinated as a matter of state policy.
The script, by Francis Hamit, details the Elizabethan-era poet and playwright’s other career as a spy for the Crown as part of the early English Secret Service that 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 there was not a day for the rest of her life that Elizabeth did not fear death at Catholic hands. The result was one of the most oppressive tyrannies in history, as Elizabeth’s government sought to control every aspect of English life and culture through law and regulation and enforced the government’s policies through 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.
The most famous playwright of his day, he was too well-known and popular to be tried and executed publicly; Queen Elizabeth ordered him secretly assassinated by his fellow secret service agents. Only recently have academic researchers uncovered the truth.
“Marlowe is a tragic figure, undone by his own fatal flaws,” Francis Hamit said. “Despite the passage of time, it is a story which will resonate with today’s audiences.”
Greg Hall added, “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 the 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. Among Lightyear’s theatrical releases was Tanna, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2017.
Arnie Holland, Lightyear’s CEO, is an Executive Producer of the film. Other Executive Producers include Michael John Donahue and Craig Miller, CEO of Wolfmill Entertainment.
Director Greg Hall came to early notice with his breakthrough debut drama The Plague, made on a shoestring budget but eliciting the support of industry stalwarts such as Mike Leigh who awarded Hall the Katrin Cartlidge Foundation scholarship. He has gone on to make a name for himself as an independent filmmaker on the rise with six feature films under his belt and a growing domestic and international audience. Hall specializes in strong dramatic performances, visual flare and often a focus in the crime genre.
Producer Gary Kurtz is an American film producer whose list of credits includes American Graffiti, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz.
Writer Francis Hamit is a graduate of the world-famous 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. After Christopher Marlowe, his next project will be a film or limited-run television series about Belle Boyd, the protagonist in Hamit’s 2008 novel The Shenandoah Spy.