Release Date: 25th October 1996
Director: Trevor Nunn
Writer: Trevor Nunn
Producer: Stephen Evans & David Parfitt
Executive Producer: Christopher Ball, Simon Curtis & David Garrett
Runtime: 2hrs 14mins
Viola and Sebastian are young twins and entertainers who use their likeness to tease their audiences. During a journey by sea, they are caught in a storm, shipwrecked and separated. Viola and other survivors end up on the shore of Illyria. A devastated Viola believes her brother dead. She later takes his appearance in order to join the court of the local Duke Orsino. Viola becomes a page, using the name “Cesario”.
Orsino is madly in love with the lady Olivia, who is in mourning due to her brother’s recent death. She uses the tragedy as an excuse to avoid seeing the Duke, whom she does not love. He sends “Cesario” to do his wooing and Olivia falls in love with the messenger, unaware of “Cesario”‘s real gender. Realising Olivia’s feelings for her alter ego, Viola is caught in even more of quandary in that she is in love with Orsino.
Meanwhile, elements of Olivia’s household plot against her pompous steward Malvolio by tricking him into believing that Olivia loves him. (Malvolio even wears a toupée to appear younger than he is.) His attempts to woo her, however, are met with bewilderment by Olivia who has him committed, where he is subjected to further humiliations by Maria, Feste and Sir Toby Belch.
Sir Toby, Olivia’s uncle and a notorious drunk, is also trying to encourage his friend, the idiotic Sir Andrew Aguecheek to court Olivia, but she purposely ignores him. Sir Toby pushes Sir Andrew into challenging “Cesario” to a duel, which goes very badly for Aguecheek.
Furthermore, Viola’s twin, Sebastian, has in fact survived the wreck and has also arrived in Illyria, accompanied by Antonio, who saved him from drowning. Antonio, who has “many enemies in Orsino’s court”, is forced to flee when he is recognised and comes across “Cesario”, whom he mistakes for Sebastian, and is outraged when “Cesario” fails to help him out.
Arriving at her estate, Sebastian meets Olivia, who, mistaking him for “Cesario”, talks him into marrying her. When he learns of this, Orsino is furious and dismisses his page, whom he had made a friend and confidante. However, the matter is soon cleared up when Sebastian and “Cesario” come face-to-face and the latter reveals her real nature and identity of Viola. Orsino marries Viola.
The film ends with both couples holding a party to celebrate their marriages, while the supporting players, including the humiliated Sir Andrew and Malvolio, leave the estate their heads held high and Feste sings his song, “The Wind and the Rain”.
Imogen Stubbs…as Viola
Toby Stephens…as Orsino
Helena Bonham Carter…as Olivia
Steven Mackintosh…as Sebastian
Imelda Staunton…as Maria
Mel Smith…as Sir Toby Belch
Richard E. Grant…as Sir Andrew Aguecheek
Nigel Hawthorne…as Malvolio
Ben Kingsley…as Feste
Peter Gunn…as Fabian
Nicholas Farrell…as Antonio