Anyone But You: Is the Romantic Comedy Inspired by a Shakespeare Play?

‘Anyone But You,’ directed by Will Gluck, acquaints us with Bea and Ben, who briefly dated in the past, with things ending on a less-than-perfect note. Bea’s sister and Ben’s friend are getting married in Australia, and they are dismayed to learn they’ll be sharing the same flight and staying at the same house leading up to it. Their snarky banter and clashes at the parties begin to undermine the engaged couple’s plans until they come across a common goal. Bea’s ex-fiance and Ben’s ex-girlfriend are attending the wedding, prompting the two to play pretend lovers, as Ben wants to get back together with her, and Bea wants her parents to stop pestering her to make amends.

They have comical difficulty pulling off a convincing couple act until a ‘Titanic’-posing stunt goes wrong and Bea falls into the water. Ben jumps in after her, and the experience brings the two closer together, with further complications arising when vulnerabilities are shared. While watching the romantic comedy, for some, the title and the foes-to-lovers dynamic can ring familiar, making one wonder whether the movie is based on a true story; if not, where it draws its inspiration from.

Anyone But You is Based on a Novel and Play

‘Anyone But You’ is not based on the novel of the same name by Jennifer Crusie, but is loosely based on the comedic play, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ by William Shakespeare. Jennifer Crusie’s novel follows a recently divorced forty-year-old woman enjoying her newfound freedom away from her ex-husband, and beginning an unlikely romance with her young neighbor. The film ‘Anyone But You’ sees a rivals-to-lovers romcom trope that can traced back to the Shakespearean play written at the end of the 16th Century, with some of the characters’ names and certain circumstances sharing similarities.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is a story of two romances with schemes and challenges in their way, and witty banter carrying on throughout it. Soldiers arrive back to their town after a successful battle, where two of the comrades, Claudio and Benedick, have prospective love interests waiting for them. The first coupling, of Claudio and Hero, is a traditional romance. But the second one between Hero’s cousin, Beatrice, and Benedick is a feisty relationship, with playful hate bordering on passion.

As the play unfolds, Beatrice and Benedick’s taunts and teases take center stage, with Beatrice calling him the prince’s jester and a fool, while he calls her disdainful and makes colorful comparisons of her wit. While Claudio and Hero agree to matrimony, Benedick is insistent on never getting married, prompting his friends to hatch a plan in order to expose his and Beatrice’s true feelings. They talk to the arguing pair separately, and convince them of other’s unrequited romantic feelings for them. Despite their seeming rivalry, the two are immediately ready to confess their love upon hearing this.

Some characters in ‘Anyone But You,’ such as the squabbling pair — Beatrice and Benedick are Bea and Ben — and the engaged couple — Claudia and Halle are Claudio and Hero — share similar nomenclature to the Shakespearean play. While some of their characteristics remain similar, the movie has adapted only bare-bone elements of the play into a straightforward rom-com format and pays homage to the old work with its nomenclature. The film has none of the subplots, schemes, and ploys present in its source material.

The existence of a previous romantic encounter and the addition of ex-lovers into the scenario are all new twists in the tale. There is no villain like Don John, who makes elaborate plans to introduce tragedy and drama into the couple’s story, and the only challenges to the romance are their circumstances, and the couple themselves. The play has inspired many theatrical and film adaptations, with some finding a loose base in the play to build upon with their own work.

The 1993 film adaptation of the Shakespearean play with the same name received much praise and popularity, and another adaption was made in 2011 by Joss Whedon. The widely popular 2001 Hindi film ‘Dil Chahta Hai,’ also found inspiration in the play. As such, ‘Anyone But You’ can be said to have some elements of inspiration from ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ but branches out with its characters and subplots while adapting the tale to a purely rom-com modern storytelling format.

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