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King Lear is a 2018 British-American television film directed by Richard Eyre. An adaptation of the play of the same name by William Shakespeare, cut to just 115 minutes, was broadcast on BBC Two on 28 May 2018.[1] Starring Anthony Hopkins as the title character, the adaptation is set in an alternative universe, 21st-century, highly militarised London and depicts the tragedy that follows when the sovereign King Lear announces the end of his reign and the division of his kingdom among his three daughters. The adaptation was met with positive reviews, which commended its acting and many singled out Hopkins for his performance in the title role.

King Lear
King Lear (2018 film).jpg
Based onKing Lear
by William Shakespeare
Written byRichard Eyre
Directed byRichard Eyre
StarringAnthony Hopkins
Emma Thompson
Emily Watson
Jim Broadbent
Florence Pugh
Jim Carter
Andrew Scott
John Macmillan
Tobias Menzies
Anthony Calf
Karl Johnson
Christopher Eccleston
John Standing
Music byStephen Warbeck
Country of originUnited Kingdom
United States
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Noëlette Buckley
CinematographyBen Smithard
Editor(s)Dan Farrell
Running time115 minutes
DistributorAmazon Studios
Original networkBBC Two
Original release28 May 2018 (BBC Two)
28 September 2018 (Amazon Prime)


Set in an alternative universe, 21st-century, highly militarised London, the sovereign King Lear calls his family together one evening in order for him to announce the division of his kingdom among his three daughters. The two elder daughters, Regan and Goneril, make open statements about their allegiance to and love for their father and receive each a share of the kingdom. The king's youngest daughter Cordelia, however, finds the act of making such a verbal statement superficial and declines to make a comparable declaration. As a result, she refuses her part of the inheritance, which is now entirely divided between her two elder sisters, while Cordelia is left to her own devices to survive.



In October 2017, the BBC commissioned a new adaptation of the Shakespeare play in a co-production with Amazon Studios, starring Anthony Hopkins as the title character with Emma Thompson, Emily Watson and Florence Pugh as his daughters. Filming began in the same month in Stevenage,[2][3] A first look image was distributed in February 2018.[4]

Scenes were also filmed in various locations in Dover Kent, such as at Dover Castle, Samphire Hoe, and Abbot's Cliff. [5]


Critical responseEdit

The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 89% based on 18 reviews, and an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Led by dual mesmerizing performances from Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson and rounded out by a solidly stocked ensemble, this King Lear is a highly watchable adaptation."[6] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a normalized score of 76 out of 100, based on 6 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[7]

Sam Wollaston of The Guardian commended Hopkins' performance as Lear, deeming him "shouty, vulnerable and absolutely mesmerising" and wrote that "Shakespeare on television – a box it wasn't designed for and doesn't necessarily fit – isn't always successful. It only works if it's not just a play on the telly, but something in its own right, too, with its own identity. This one achieves that, with pace and modernity."[8] The Wall Street Journal's John Anderson also commended Hopkins' performance, writing that he enjoyed watching him "gnash his teeth, wail and go gloriously mad opposite one of the best supporting casts imaginable."[9]

Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz praised the "terrific" cast and the story's sub-plots, writing "Eyre has cut the text to the bone, sometimes to its detriment, though the edits elevate the play's parallel, secondary story--the bastard Edmund (John McMillan) plotting against his father, the Earl of Gloucester (Jim Broadbent) and his half-brother Edgar (Andrew Scott)--in fascinating ways."[10] Hanh Nguyen of IndieWire wrote that the adaptation "starts to break down near the last third with a choppiness that takes a toll on the logic of the piece" but commended the performances and stated "Amazon's King Lear is by no means a definitive adaptation of what is arguably the Bard's finest tragedy, but it is a thrilling and entertaining one."[11]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Movie/Miniseries
King Lear
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
John Macmillan
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Emma Thompson
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
Anthony Hopkins
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Television Movie
King Lear


  1. ^ "Trailer: King Lear". BBC. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  2. ^ "Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson to Star in 'King Lear' for Amazon and BBC". The Hollywood Reporter. 5 October 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  3. ^ Elvery, Martin (31 October 2017). "Stevenage filming: Sir Anthony Hopkins spotted as scenes shot for BBC's King Lear". The Comet. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  4. ^ Ritman, Alex (22 March 2018). "First Look: Anthony Hopkins Stars as King Lear in BBC/Amazon Adaptation". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  5. ^ "King Lear (2018)". Kent Film Office. 23 May 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  6. ^ "King Lear (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  7. ^ "King Lear Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  8. ^ Wollaston, Sam (28 May 2018). "King Lear review – Anthony Hopkins is shouty, vulnerable and absolutely mesmerising". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  9. ^ Anderson, John (27 September 2018). "'King Lear' Review: A Timeless Tale With a Modern King". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  10. ^ Zoller Seitz, Matt (30 August 2018). "Amazon's King Lear Captures the Heart of a Classic Shakespeare Tragedy". Vulture. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  11. ^ Nguyen, Hanh (29 September 2018). "'King Lear' Amazon Review: Anthony Hopkins Enthralls, Chewing His Way Through a 21st-Century War Zone". IndieWire. Retrieved 26 December 2018.

External linksEdit