Tolstoy, Shakespeare and Michael Hoffman


It would be a mistake to bet against Michael Hoffman in a Bard-off.

In 1976, the Boise-based writer/director helped found the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and later lensed a big-screen version of the Bard's farcical fantasy A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999). But his appreciation for the harrowing plight of Hamlet or macabre demise of Macbeth didn't keep Hoffman from filming a detailed biographical feature about one of William's greatest detractors, author Leo Tolstoy.

On Thursday, Feb. 18, Hoffman is hosting a red-carpet premiere of his newest work, the Last Station, as a benefit for both Boise Contemporary Theater and the Agency for New Americans. The film has been nominated for two Oscars—Best Supporting Actor for Christopher Plummer and Best Actress for Helen Mirren—and pictures the final turbulent months of Tolstoy's life.

In a 1906 essay, Tolstoy described his reaction to the Shakespeare's work thusly:

"I remember the astonishment I felt when I first read Shakespeare. I expected to receive a powerful esthetic pleasure, but having read, one after the other, works regarded as his best: "King Lear," "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet" and "Macbeth," not only did I feel no delight, but I felt an irresistible repulsion and tedium."

Boise Weekly recently chatted with Hoffman, eager to learn his opinion of Tolstoy's stance on Shakespeare. What was Hoffman's response to the thumbs-down from Tolstoy? Listen to the interview below.

Want to attend the premiere screening at the Egyptian Theatre? Details can be found here. The Last Station opens on Friday, Feb. 19 at The Flicks.