Shakespeare: The Man Behind the Name

Shakespeare: The Man Behind the Name

Screened on SKY TV UK in September 2022

Controversy Films announced the signing of a global distribution deal with Gravitas Ventures for the documentary film Shakespeare: The Man Behind the Name, which focused on Shakespeare’s identity and the life of the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere. The film streamed on Sky TV UK in September 2022.

‘We are thrilled to be working with the team at Gravitas on the worldwide distribution of the film,’ director Cheryl Eagan-Donovan explained, noting that ‘they have been excellent partners for the U.S. and Canadian releases of the film Nothing is Truer than Truth, which has been renamed Shakespeare: The Man Behind the Name for the international market’. The new title comes from a line spoken by Sir Derek Jacobi in the film.

Shakespeare: The Man Behind the Name introduces Edward de Vere, A-list party boy on the continental circuit, who travelled to Venice and throughout Italy in 1575–76, discovered commedia dell’arte, and collected the experiences that would become known as the works of Shakespeare. The film argues that De Vere’s bisexuality is the reason for the pseudonym ‘Shakespeare’.

Filmed in Venice, Verona, Mantua, Padua, and Brenta in Italy, at sites visited by De Vere and the settings for The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and Two Gentlemen of Verona, the film features award-winning actors and directors, including Sir Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance, Diane Paulus, and Tina Packer.

Gravitas Ventures is a worldwide film distributor that connects filmmakers and producers with a global audience of over a billion people. Over the course of more than 15 years in business they have collaborated with thousands of artists to share important films with global audiences. Gravitas’ titles are frequently certified fresh, consistently release in the top of charts on many platforms, and have garnered countless nominations and awards across the independent film industry. In 2021 the Gravitas film The Mole Agent was nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards.

Through Gravitas’ global partner Sky TV UK, the film will be available in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, and British Forces Overseas Bases, beginning in September 2022.

Director Cheryl Eagan-Donovan recently received a research grant to study the circulation of manuscripts among Oxford’s literary circle, Shakespeare’s contemporaries, in late 16th-century London. Last August she visited the British Library, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, and the Dulwich College archives, which house the collections of Philip Henslowe and Edward Alleyn. She will return to London in October to begin location scouting and pre-production on a new documentary project.

Controversy Films presents media projects that challenge the conventional wisdom. The company’s films ask difficult questions and incite dialogue and action. For more information about Shakespeare: The Man Behind the Name, contact Cheryl Eagan-Donovan at or go to

View the trailer for the film here: