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Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones to reunite onstage

The pair, who co-starred in a Broadway revival of Driving Miss Daisy, will play lovers Beatrice and Benedick in actor/playwright Mark Rylance’s new version of the Shakespeare comedy, to be staged at the Old Vic theatre in London.

Rylance credits Redgrave with encouraging him to take on the project, insisting, “Beatrice and Benedick being mature is not new. I’ve just pushed it much further. When I said to Vanessa it was a shame they hadn’t played Beatrice and Benedick, Vanessa, with her wonderful enthusiasm for the possible, said, ‘Do you think it would work?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I don’t see why not. It’s certainly something I would love to see.'”

He has forged a close bond with the veteran actress as they have both lost daughters, and believes their shared grief will bring a certain poignancy to scenes in the upcoming production.

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He adds, “It is something that Vanessa and I share… The central event of the play is the way the tension is dissolved in the apparent death of (young character) Hero. There’s a resonance for Vanessa and I in the play.”

Previews are scheduled to begin next September (13).

Rylance’s stepdaughter Nataasha van Kampen died unexpectedly of natural causes in July (12), while Redgrave’s actress daughter Natasha Richardson passed away after a 2009 skiing accident.

Benedick and Beatrice were previously played on the big screen by Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in a 1993 film, while Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon has revived Much Ado About Nothing as a new movie starring Alexis Deniso and Amy Acker.

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