Roland Emmerich, the Germanfilm-maker behind popcorn blockbusters such as Independence Day, Godzilla and the upcoming The Day After Tomorrow, will take a major change in direction with his nextpicture The Soul Of The Age, anintense 16th century drama about the question of the authorship ofShakespeare.

Emmerich is scoutinglocations in the UK this week for the film which he says will be budgeted inthe $30m to $35m range, a far cry from the $130m budget of The Day AfterTomorrow.

Written by John Orloff, thescript has been doing the Hollywood rounds for some years but fell by thewayside when Shakespeare In Lovewent into production in 1998. Emmerich has resuscitated it, and says it willbe his next picture, if the financing can come together. "In that budget range,it's a risky undertaking," he told Screendaily over the weekend in Paris wherehe was taking part in international publicity duties for The Day AfterTomorrow. "It's very hard to makeget a movie like this made and I want to make it in a certain way." Emmerich'sagency CAA is working to raise the requisite financing for the film.

The film, which he comparesto Amadeus, is the story ofEdward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford who lived from 1550 to 1604and was considered one of the finest poets and dramatists in the court of QueenElizabeth I. Only in the 20th century did theories emerge that hewas the true author of the works of William Shakespeare. Emmerich says the filmis "a very serious drama" about the relationship between de Vere andShakespeare.

Orloff is a well-knownwriter in Hollywood, and was responsible for writing parts two and nine of thehit ten-part HBO miniseries Band Of Brothers.

Emmerich said that, while TheSoul Of The Age would probably behis next film, he is also planning to direct One Nation, a high-octane drama about a coup d'etat in theWhite House, at Sony Pictures.

The Day After Tomorrow has the widest day-and-date opening yet of anystudio-released film to date when it is launched around the world on May 26. Emmerich'slast three films have between them grossed $1.4bn - Independence Day took $811m in 1996, Godzilla took $376m in 1997 and The Patriot took $215m in 2000.