EXCLUSIVE: BBC Worldwide North America and Fathom Events are partnering to commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death with the U.S. theatrical release of origins comedy, Bill. The one-night-only screening will be held at select theaters on April 11 from 7 PM (local times). Featuring talent from the BBC’s Horrible Histories and Sky One’s Yonderland, it’s billed as an offbeat Monty Python-esque farce about murderous kings, spies, conspiracy and lost loves (see trailer above). Mathew Baynton is The Bard, along with Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders) as Queen Elizabeth and a cameo by Damian Lewis as swashbuckling Sir Richard Hawkins.
Set to play in 400 theaters, Bill sees the titular failed lute player set out to find his fortune in London. There he meets Christopher Marlowe (Jim Howick), and believes his big break has come when the Earl of Croydon (Simon Farnaby) offers to put on his play for the queen. Meanwhile, King Phillip II of Spain (Ben Willbond) has hatched a plan to rid the world of Elizabeth, his mortal enemy, and seize her throne for himself. Sneaking into England with a motley crew of assassins, Phillip fools the Earl into helping with his devilish plot — using Shakespeare’s first work as the centerpiece in his plan to assassinate the royal. The U.S. screenings will feature behind-the-scenes interviews with cast and crew (theaters are at fathomevents.com).
Richard Bracewell (The Gigolos) directed the Cowboy Films/Punk Cinema production which was backed by BBC Films, the BFI Lottery Fund, Screen Yorkshire and LipSync. Independent Film has international sales. Producers are Charles Steel (The Last King Of Scotland), Alasdair Flind and Tony Bracewell.
Fathom is the event cinema distribution arm of AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Regal. Recent alternative content screenings include the BBC’s Sherlock: The Abominable Bride and Benedict Cumberbatch’s West End Hamlet.
Bill fits in alongside a host of UK programming the BBC is collaborating on in homage to the writer this year for its Season of Shakespeare. That includes plays, TV shows, and ballet and opera performances as well as a second batch of The Hollow Crown history plays, starring Cumberbatch and Judi Dench.