A HOLLYWOOD blockbuster is set to reopen a debate about whether William Shakespeare was actually Hedingham Castle-born Edward de Vere.

Anonymous, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I and Rhys Ifans as de Vere, puts forward the theory that de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote the works attributed to the Bard of Avon.

Questions over the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets began in the middle of the 19th century. De Vere was put forward as the most likely candidate as the real playwright in 1920, because he was known to Queen Elizabeth I as a successful playwright, lyric poet, sportsman and patron of the arts.

Jason Lindsay, one of his descendants, is the owner of Hedingham Castle. He supports the theory his ancestor was the true literary genius.

He said: “I think it’s quite hard to stick up for the man from Stratford. There’s very little hard evidence for that case.”

Much of the speculation centres on de Vere’s travels to Italy, where many of Shakespeare’s plays are set, and his knowledge of court life. Even though de Vere was born in Hedingham Castle on April 12, 1550, and grew up there, the Norman keep will not be on screen.

Mr Lindsay said: “They didn’t do any filming here, although they partly filmed a documentary here, which runs parallel with the film.

“It’s very difficult to film here because most productions want three months at the castle and we have weddings and other events.

“There are some Tudor aspects of the castle still here. We have the Tudor bridge which de Vere used to walk across, for example.”

The film, set for release in September, has already stirred up much debate over who wrote the likes of Romeo and Juliet, Othello and the Merchant of Venice.

Director Roland Emmerich, better known for producing special effect-laden blockbusters such as Independence Day, took part in a debate at the international educational charity, the English-Speaking Union, in London this week.

The de Vere Society has distanced itself from the film.

It argues the film has not based its assertion de Vere is the true author on academic fact.

A spokesman said: “Unfortunately, it introduces the untenable theory that the Earl of Oxford only used the pseudonym because he was the unacknowledged son of Queen Elizabeth, and by an incestuous relationship with her fathered Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton.

“The purpose of the de Vere Society is to sponsor the claim Edward de Vere is the best candidate for using the pseudonym Shakespeare, while William Shakspere, of Stratford, wrote none of the works which are frequently attributed to him.

“Though the society welcomes all who have an interest in what is known as the Shakespeare Authorship Question, it seeks to maintain rigorous academic quality and avoid the unfounded speculation which afflicts some aspects of Shakespeare scholarship.”

Whatever the truth, Mr Lindsay expects there to be more interest in one of Hedingham Castle’s most famous residents, although he insists: “We won’t turn it into another Stratford.”