All the world’s a stage — and the perfect inspiration for a romantic comedy plot line! Many beloved romance-focused movies have taken inspiration from the Bard himself: William Shakespeare.
10 Things I Hate About You, the 1999 cult classic that starred the likes of Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger, was initially inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.
The movie followed sisters Kat and Bianca Stratford (played by Stiles and Larisa Oleynik, respectively) as they navigated high school romances. While Bianca was forbidden to date until her older sister did, Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) concocted a scheme to be able to ask out Bianca: Get resident bad boy Patrick Verona (Ledger) to woo Kat.
The movie’s plot is similar to the 16th century play, in which Lucentio is unable to marry his love, Bianca, until her “shrewish” older sister, Katherina, marries first. The eccentric Petruccio teams up with Lucentio to charm the reluctant Katherina and turn her into an obedient wife.
“We were recruiting so many of our friends to find fairytales, or fables, and one night a friend was like, ‘You guys should do Taming of the Shrew, that would be great,’” screenwriter Kirsten Smith recalled to Refinery29 in June 2019 of her writing process with cowriter Karen McCullah. “He suggested switching the genders, but after considering it, we decided it would be better [in its original form.] It was a pretty intense two-month search trying to find the perfect thing [that] would lend itself well to high school.”
She continued: “We sought out to find this perfect teen idea, and once we landed on Taming of the Shrew, we went to Mexico where Karen had a timeshare, and we spent a week outlining the script on the beach. We went back to our respective states and wrote the script long distance. It was before internet [was a big thing] so we were like mailing each other pages and faxing each other scenes. It was very low tech!”
10 Things I Hate About You was just the tipping point for romantic comedies based on Shakespeare’s acclaimed plays. Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum notably starred in 2006’s She’s the Man, which drew inspiration from Twelfth Night. In the film, Bynes’ Viola schemed to take her twin brother Sebastian’s (James Kirk) place at a new boarding school to join their soccer team after her own squad is cut. There, she soon falls in love with her roommate, Duke (played by Tatum), who is infatuated by popular classmate Olivia (Laura Ramsey).
The OG play followed a similar story when Viola — separated from her twin Sebastian — posed as a boy while working for her crush, Duke. However, Duke is in love with Countess Olivia and enlists Viola to court her on his behalf despite Olivia falling for Viola’s Sebastian.
“I totally fought for Channing [to get cast in] that movie because he wasn’t famous yet,” the Amanda Show alum told Paper magazine in November 2018, calling the movie an “interesting” experience as a whole. “He’d just done a Mountain Dew commercial and I was like, ‘This guy’s a star — every girl will love him!’ But [the producers] were like, ‘He’s so much older than all of you!’ And I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter! Trust me!’”
Scroll below for more of the best romantic comedies that were adapted from Shakespearean origins: