What really happened during Shakespeare's 'Lost Years'? Hopeless lute player Bill Shakespeare leaves his home to follow his dream.


Richard Bracewell
1,042 ( 10,481)





Cast overview, first billed only:
Mathew Baynton ... William 'Bill' Shakespeare / Lord Burghley / English Messenger / Customs Official
Simon Farnaby ... Earl of Croydon / Juan Domingo / Sausage / Dmitri Alexandrovitch / Fur Seller
Martha Howe-Douglas ... Anne Hathaway / Molly / Spanish Courtier / Body Collector
Jim Howick ... Christopher Marlowe / Gabriel Montoya / Cynical Jester / Palace Doorman / Mysterious Man / Even Grubbier Thief / Party Planner
Laurence Rickard ... Sir Francis Walsingham / Lope Lopez / Stand-Up Jester / Chatty Guard / Slightly Late Courtier / Ian / Hanging Criminal / Chicken Drumstick
Ben Willbond ... King Phillip II of Spain / Earl of Southampton / Grubby Thief / Alexander Dimitrievitch / Head of Guards
David Crow David Crow ... Ramon: Cockney Player / Sergeant
Jamie Demetriou ... Sergio: Cockney Player
Richard Atwill Richard Atwill ... Seve: Cockney Player
John Henry Falle ... Miguel: Cockney Player
Andrew Young Andrew Young ... Spanish Guard 1
Elliot Young Elliot Young ... Spanish Guard 2
Damian Lewis ... Sir Richard Hawkins
Michael Collin Michael Collin ... Despatch Rider
Susy Kane ... Lady-in-waiting


A down on his luck William "Bill" Shakespeare decides to pursue his latest dream: to be an aspiring writer. His adventure soon becomes dangerous when he is caught between a act of murder.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Family | History


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Almost the entire cast of the Ghosts sitcom appear in this film in multiple roles. See more »


When the Earl of Croydon is trying to hastily tidy up his house and picks up "Livelie Maidens," it's obvious that the inner pages of the magazine are empty. See more »


Earl of Croydon: That poor, sexy woman!
See more »


References Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) See more »


Duelin' Banjos
Published by EMI Music Publishing Ltd
Written by Arthur Smith
Arranged by Bernard Hughes
Performed by James Akers, Lucy Shaw and John Vickers
See more »

User Reviews

Horrible Histories Hit The Big Screen
20 September 2015 | by littlewritingmachineSee all my reviews

Anyone who has studied history, and that's just about everyone, will find something to enjoy in Bill, a big screen leap for the popular TV team that expands the scope of the show without letting go of the good humour and wit beloved by millions.

Taking a cue from Shakespeare in Love, but playing the idea of the Bard's formative years in a very different way, Bill features Mathew Bayton as the young playwright, seeking his fortune in London and falling under the wing of Christopher Marlowe (Jim Howick). The historical aspect is brought to the fore as King Phillip II (Ben Willbond) concocts a scheme to eliminate Queen Elizabeth I (Helen McCrory) by gunpowder, with Bill's first play giving him a pretext to carry out his plan. Bill's excitement about seeing his work brought to the stage is tempered by a dawning realisation that he's only a pawn in a bigger political game.

Bill might well work for worldwide audiences as a cheerful parody of Shakespeare in Love, but has its own sense of comic invention. It's refreshing to see a British film with such spirited performances, with Willbond sporting several moustaches at once and his co-writer Laurence Rickard superbly deadpan as the violently anti-Catholic Walsingham. Bill never dumbs down history, but reflects it through amusingly modern updates; the castle security go to Code Woad when the believe there's a high risk of attack, and Phillip's men are subject to a search by a decidedly modern customs officer. Damien Lewis has a brief but amusing cameo, and all the performers are on point; you can tell that they've got confidence in the material, and they wring every possible laugh from it. Sneaking into cinemas with barely a breath of publicity, Bill should find a wide and appreciative audience once it finds a home on the small screen; carefully plotted and with genuine wit behind the gags, it's the best British comedy of the year. That may not be saying much, given that big-screen comedy is seemingly a lost art, but Bill is just the thing to put a rare smile on the faces of adults and children alike.

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Official Sites:

BBC Films [UK]





Release Date:

18 September 2015 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Bill See more »


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Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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