(Sally McCartney’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/13.)
“When you’re pitching stuff,” says Ben Willbond, pulling a narrow, inquisitorial face, “they ask, ‘Who is it for?’ They tell you, ‘We’re looking for comedies that are for people between 16 and 18.’” He relaxes his expression. “Well, good luck with that! We’ve gone for stuff that makes us laugh.”
Willbond is talking about Bill, the film caper he has co-written about the “lost years” of William Shakespeare. “In the back of my mind,” he adds, “I’m also going, ‘Would my nephew laugh at that? Would my grandad?’”
Bill, I suggest , feels like that increasingly rare thing, a “family comedy”, packed as it is with cheeky quips, enjoyable grotesques and countless historical liberties, all tied up in a merrily improbable plot. “I’m so glad you said that,” replies Willbond, who also stars in the film, playing a power-hungry King Philip II of Spain, on a flamboyant mission to murder Elizabeth I.