Richard III (1995 film)
|Directed by||Richard Loncraine|
|Produced by||Stephen Bayly
Lisa Katselas Paré
|Written by||William Shakespeare (play)
Robert Downey Jr.
Kristin Scott Thomas
|Music by||Trevor Jones|
|Editing by||Paul Green|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||104 minutes|
Richard III is a 1995 drama film adapted from William Shakespeare's play of the same name, starring Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., Nigel Hawthorne, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, John Wood and Dominic West.
The film relocates the play's events to a fictionalized version of Britain in the 1930s.
The film's concept was based on a stage production directed by Richard Eyre for the Royal National Theatre, which also starred McKellen. The production was adapted for the screen by McKellen and directed by Richard Loncraine.
The film is notable for its unconventional use of famous British landmarks, often using special effects to move them to new locations. The transformed landmarks used include the following:
- St Pancras railway station is relocated to Westminster and becomes King Edward's seat of government.
- Battersea Power Station is relocated to the coast of Kent and is portrayed as a bombed-out military base.
- Bankside Power Station, rather than the actual Tower of London, is the prison where Clarence is imprisoned. At the time of filming, the station was partially derelict, long before its current partial use as Tate Modern.
- Brighton Pavilion is relocated to a coastal clifftop as King Edward's country retreat.
- Senate House of the University of London is Richard's seat of government and is used for interior and exterior scenes. The famous art deco facade and clock of Shell Mex House is also featured in exterior shots.
The visually rich production features various symbols, uniforms, weapons and vehicles that draw openly from the aesthetic of the Third Reich as depicted in Nazi propaganda (especially Triumph of the Will) and war films. At the same time obvious care is put into diluting and mixing the Nazi references with recognizable British and American uniform styles, props and visual motives (also familiar to the average cinemagoer). The resulting military uniforms, for instance, range from completely «Allied» in cases of positive characters to almost completely «SS» in the case of Richard's entourage. Another example of this balanced approach to production design is the choice of tanks for battle scenes between Richmond's and Richard's armies: both use Soviet tanks (T-55s and T-34s respectively), mixed with German, American and British World War II-era vehicles.
Perhaps the play's most famous line—"A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"—was recontextualized by the more recent setting; during the climactic battle, Richard's jeep becomes stuck in the mud, and his lament is cast as a plea for a mode of transport with legs rather than wheels.
In a surprising ending, where Richard refuses to be captured and leaps down to his death with the "wrong" closing line "Let us to't pell-mell; if not to heaven, then hand-in-hand to hell". As Richard falls, the camera focuses on Henry, smiling at the camera just as Richard had throughout the film and thereby implying that he will be just as bad a king as Richard. Richard falls, grinning triumphantly, into the inferno and is followed by the eerily upbeat tune "I'm Sitting On The Top Of The World" (Ray Henderson, Joe Young and Sam Lewis) in the classic version sung by Al Jolson.
The film enlarges the role of the Duchess of York considerably by combining her character with that of Queen Margaret, as compared with the 1955 Olivier film version of the play, in which the Duchess hardly appeared at all and Queen Margaret was completely eliminated. The roles of Rivers, Grey, Vaughan and Dorset are combined into Rivers. The death scenes are shown rather than implied as in the play, and changed to suit the time (Hastings is hanged rather than beheaded) and historical accuracy (Clarence dies by having his throat cut in a bathtub, rather than being drowned in a wine barrel). Lord Rivers, who usually dies offstage (or in the case of Olivier's film offscreen) is impaled by the device of a sharp spike spurting up from the bottom of his mattress while he lies in bed during sex with a woman in a hotel room. Each character's pre-death monologue is also removed, except that of Clarence and Buckingham.
McKellen himself stated on his website: "When you put this amazing old story in a believable modern setting, it will hopefully raise the hair on the back of your neck, and you won't be able to dismiss it as 'just a movie' or, indeed, as 'just old-fashioned Shakespeare.'" 
- Ian McKellen as Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III
- Annette Bening as Queen Elizabeth
- Jim Broadbent as Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
- Robert Downey, Jr. as Rivers
- Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Anne Neville
- Maggie Smith as The Duchess of York
- John Wood as King Edward IV
- Nigel Hawthorne as George, Duke of Clarence
- Adrian Dunbar as Sir James Tyrrell
- Edward Hardwicke as Lord Stanley
- Tim McInnerny as Sir William Catesby
- Jim Carter as Lord Hastings
- Dominic West as Henry, Earl of Richmond
- Trés Hanley as Lord Rivers' Mistress
- Roger Hammond as Archbishop Thomas
- Donald Sumpter as Brakenbury
- Bill Paterson as Richard Ratcliffe
- Kate Steavenson-Payne as Princess Elizabeth
- Christopher Bowen as the Prince of Wales, later King Edward V
- Matthew Groom as Richard of York
- Marco Williamson as the Edward, Prince of Wales
- Edward Jewesbury as King Henry VI
- Stacey Kent - performer at the celebratory ball of 1930s-style swing song, an original composition by Trevor Jones
- Best British Film
- Best Actor - Ian McKellen
- Adapted Screenplay
- Best Costumes - WON
- Best Production Design - WON
- Berlin Film Festival
Richard III received very positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 95% "Certified Fresh" rating, with an average score of 8.1/10. Empire magazine gave the film 4/5 stars, referring to it as "fascinating" and "cerebral"  Jeffrey Lyons stated that the film was "mesmerizing" while Richard Corliss in Time Magazine referred to the film as "cinematic"  Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that "the picture never stops coming at you"  Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half stars (out of four) and included the film among his Great Movies list.
- Ian McKellen Richard III photo gallery
- "The 68th Academy Awards (1996) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-05.
- "Berlinale: 1996 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
- "Richard III (1996)". Chicago Sun-Times.
- McKellen's website about the film including an annotated copy of the screenplay.
- Richard III at the Internet Movie Database
- Richard III at allmovie
- Interactive video interview with McKellen on Shakespeare, Richard III and Richard's opening speech. Includes McKellen introducing a clip from his film.