Anonymous is a 2011 political thriller and historical drama film. Directed by Roland Emmerich and written by John Orloff, the movie is a fictionalized version of the life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, an Elizabethan courtier, playwright, poet and patron of the arts. It stars Rhys Ifans as de Vere and Vanessa Redgraveas Queen Elizabeth I of England.
Set within the political atmosphere of the Elizabethan court, the film presents Lord Oxford as the true author of William Shakespeare's plays, and dramatizes events around the succession to Queen Elizabeth I, and the Earl of Essex Rebellion against her. De Vere is depicted as a literary prodigy and the Queen's sometime lover, with whom she has a son, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, only to discover that he himself may be the Queen's son by an earlier lover. De Vere eventually sees his suppressed plays performed through a frontman (Shakespeare), using his production of Richard III to support a rebellion led by his son andRobert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. The insurrection fails, and as a condition for sparing the life of their son, the Queen declares that de Vere will never be known as the author of his plays and poems.
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2011. Produced by Centropolis Entertainment and Studio Babelsberg and distributed by Columbia Pictures, Anonymous was released on October 28, 2011 in 265 theatres in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, expanding to movie theatres around the world in the following weeks. The film was a box-office flop and received mixed reviews, with critics praising its performances and visual achievements, but criticizing the film's time-jumping format, factual errors, and the filmmakers' promotion of the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship.