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Denzel Washington goes medieval in first haunting, witchy trailer for Apple & A24's ‘Tragedy of Macbeth’

By Josh Weiss

Denzel Washington is back with a new genre project. Or, maybe we should say an old genre project. William Shakespeare's Macbeth comes to life in the stunning and creepy first teaser trailer for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Writer-director Joel Coen (so often associated with his fellow filmmaker brother, Ethan) went solo for the project, which unfolds against the backdrop of an unsettling, expressionistic atmosphere that brings to mind classic titles such as Fritz Lang's M.

Set to premiere this Friday — Sep. 24 — on opening night of the New York Film Festival, the adaptation stars Oscar-winner Denzel Washington as the titular military mastermind willing to commit murder in order to become king. Frances McDormand (Coen's real-world wife and the most recent Best Actress victor for her performance in Chloé Zhao's Nomadland) takes on the role of Macbeth's conniving spouse who convinces her husband to assassinate King Duncan.

If you ever read the play in a high school English class (and let's be honest, you probably did), you know that it's a tale of murder, deceit, politics, and above all, the terrible weight of guilt. Oh, and witches — there are witches and scary prophecies in there, too. The trio of decrepit old crones appear in the very first act to predict the main character's bloody ascent to the throne. Their appearance gives birth to the iconic phrase: "Something wicked this way comes."

Check out the teaser below:

“I think a very important thing about Joel’s adaptation is that we are not calling it ‘Macbeth,'” McDormand said in spring of 2020 (via The Film Stage). “We’re calling it ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth,’ which I think is an important distinction. In Joel’s adaptation, we are exploring the age of the characters and in our adaptation the Macbeths are older. Both Denzel and I are older than what is often cast as the Macbeths. We’re postmenopausal, we’re past childbearing age. So that puts a pressure on their ambition to have the crown. I think the most important distinction is that it is their last chance for glory.”

"I had chosen the subject because I had been asked by Frances a number of years ago to direct the stage production of Macbeth. I’m really not a stage director, so I [didn’t do it]," Coen explained. "But when I saw her in a production that she did, it made me start thinking about the play and it made me want to work with her on the play because I was so impressed with what she was doing with the part of Lady Macbeth, so I thought that would be an interesting thing to work together on and to do as a movie. So when I started thinking about it in terms of a movie, it became more accessible to me, intellectually, and that’s when it started."

Bertie Carvel (Les Misérables), Alex Hassell (Cowboy Bebop), Corey Hawkins (Kong: Skull Island), Harry Melling (The Old Guard), Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter), Kathryn Hunter (Rome), and Moses Ingram (The Queen's Gambit) round out the rest of the cast. Robert Graf serves as a producer alongside Coen and McDormand.

The Tragedy of Macbeth hits select theaters Christmas Day (Saturday, Dec. 25) before making its way to Apple TV+ three weeks later on Thursday, Jan. 14.

The Tragedy of Macbeth Key Art