07/23/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT
Assigned to write about Macbeth in high school, Richard Olivier consulted an expert: his father, actor Laurence Olivier. "He gave me brilliant explanations of why Macbeth had done this or done that," recalls Olivier, the second of the actor's four children. "I got an F."
That, says Olivier fils, "taught me that performing Shakespeare and analyzing Shakespeare are two different things." These days, Olivier, 39, imparts other lessons gleaned from the Bard. Charging up to $7,000 a day, he uses Henry V, Hamlet and other plays to teach leadership and business skills to executives. Julius Caesar: Emotional and Political Intelligence, for instance, discusses how to avoid getting stabbed in the back. "Shakespeare wrote about leaders who were managing nations, resources, politics, rivalry, competition—all that stuff is out there in the business world," says Olivier. "Business has the same influence in the world today that nation-states and kings and queens had in the 1600s."
And how would Sir Laurence, who died in 1989, feel about his son's putting the Bard to such use? "I think Larry would have been impressed," says actress Joan Plowright, Richard's mother and the actor's widow. "The idea would have interested him."
Married to Shelley, 43, a dance teacher with whom he has two children—Troy, 13, and Ali, 11—Olivier, who lives in London, travels the world giving his two-and three-day Shakespeare seminars. At home, though, Shakespeare fades from the Olivier family consciousness. "My son has a school project to write a biography," says Olivier. "Shelley said, 'You know, Troy, you could do it on Shakespeare.' He came back with a book on Jim Carrey."