The Man in the Iron Mask (1998 film)

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The Man in the Iron Mask
The Man in the Iron Mask.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Randall Wallace
Produced by Randall Wallace
Russell Smith
Screenplay by Randall Wallace
Based on The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later 
by Alexandre Dumas
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Jeremy Irons
John Malkovich
Gérard Depardieu
Gabriel Byrne
Music by Nick Glennie-Smith
Cinematography Peter Suschitzky
Edited by William Hoy
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • March 13, 1998 (1998-03-13) (United States)
  • March 20, 1998 (1998-03-20) (United Kingdom)
Running time
132 minutes
Country United States[1]
Language English
Budget $35 million
Box office $182,968,902

The Man in the Iron Mask is a 1998 adventure film[2] directed, produced, and written by Randall Wallace, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in a dual role as the title character and villain, Jeremy Irons as Aramis, John Malkovich as Athos, Gerard Depardieu as Porthos, and Gabriel Byrne as D'Artagnan. The picture uses characters from Alexandre Dumas' D'Artagnan Romances and is very loosely adapted from some plot elements of The Vicomte de Bragelonne. The film centers on the aging four Musketeers; Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan during the reign of King Louis XIV of France and attempts to explain the mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask, using a plot more closely related to the flamboyant 1929 version starring Douglas Fairbanks, The Iron Mask, and the 1939 version directed by James Whale, than the original Dumas book.


France is under the reign of the militaristic King Louis XIV, who is bankrupting the country with his unpopular wars. When starving peasants in Paris start rioting for food, he responds by ordering his chief adviser Pierre, to send them rotten food—although he later orders Pierre executed for this and all rioters shot dead. Meanwhile, the king wallows in hedonistic luxury and seduces a parade of women. The legendary three musketeers have retired from their posts: Aramis is now a priest of the Jesuits; Porthos is a frequent visitor to Parisian brothels; Athos has a son named Raoul who has just returned from the war and signifies his application to join the musketeers, like his father who once served with pride and honor. Meanwhile, Athos gives Raoul his wife's ring, saying that the only lady worthy to wear it is the one that Raoul loves. This is Christine Bellefort, to whom Raoul intends to propose. At a festival, the two lovers are greeted by an older D'Artagnan, who is still in the service of the King as Captain of the Musketeers, striving to retain the esprit de corps of the old days. D'Artagnan wishes Raoul and Christine luck, but just before Raoul can propose, the king's eyes fall on Christine. He arranges for Raoul to be returned to combat, where he is killed by the Dutch cannons while leading ground troops in an attack en-masse. The news of his son's death reaches Athos, who, in a fit of rage, proceeds to the king's palace to seek vengeance. He injures two musketeers before D'Artagnan overpowers him on the Palace grounds. This puts a severe strain on Athos's friendship with D'Artagnan, whom he now sees as a traitor for siding with his son's killer.

In the wake of Raoul's death, Louis invites Christine to the palace where she sleeps with him, grateful for the medical assistance his doctors have given to her mother and sister. It is implied Louis may be honestly in love with Christine. Louis orders Aramis to find and execute the secret leader of the Jesuit order, which has openly opposed Louis's wars as the source of public hunger and unrest. Aramis instead sets in motion a plot to overthrow the king with the help of his old comrades, for the Jesuits' secret leader is none other than Aramis himself. Only Athos and Porthos agree to the plan; D'Artagnan refuses to bettray his oath of honor and allegiance to the king. The three former Musketeers sneak into an island prison and arrange the escape of a mysterious prisoner: a man in an iron mask. They replace him with a corpse in a matching iron mask and, pretending it is plague ridden, burn it so the guards will not know the face behind the iron mask (and all will believe him dead). They take the young man to a safe house in the countryside and unmask him: he is Philippe, the identical twin of King Louis. While he is identical to his brother, Philippe is compassionate and gentle. Aramis reveals that Philippe was sent away by his father, King Louis XIII, without anyone knowing he was alive and ordering Philippe's true identity kept from him, to save France from dynastic warfare. Louis and his mother learned of Philippe's existence when Louis XIII was on his deathbed. Anne wanted to restore her son's birthright to him. But Louis was determined to keep power, yet too superstitious to have his own brother murdered. So instead, he devised a way to keep him hidden: the iron mask. Aramis, at time still serving as a musketeer and clad in a black uniform, the only thing Philippe remembers, was the one who took him away to prison, an act which has haunted him ever since. Aramis confesses it was him, and says one day he will ask for Phillipe's forgiveness.

Meanwhile, King Louis succeeds in seducing Christine completely, claiming that he ordered Raoul to be placed far from the battlefront. Christine receives a letter from Raoul, predicting his death and saying that he forgives her for becoming the king's mistress. Whilst in bed with Louis, Christine admits that she still loves Raoul and that she is not in love with him. Enraged, Louis forsakes Christine.

Athos, Porthos, and Aramis teach Philippe how to act like royalty, so he may replace Louis as king. Together they abduct Louis during a masquerade ball. Before his absence is revealed, Philippe takes his place. However, Philippe's good nature starts to give him away when he helps one of the obese women up from the floor after she falls over and spares Christine's life when she storms in and openly accuses him of murdering Raoul (having learned this from a letter sent by Louis' General), promising to make amends for wronging her. D'Artagnan realizes something is amiss, orders all palace musketeers to be on full alert, and personally escorts Philippe outside. They arrive at the docks just as Athos, Porthos, and Aramis are about to sail for the Bastille with Louis, and after threatening to kill each brother the men collectively decide to make a trade for the brothers' lives. However, in the ensuing chaos of their escape, Louis orders his musketeers to recapture Philippe, which they successfully do.

Afterwards, D'Artagnan is stunned to learn that Philippe is Louis' brother and pleads with Louis to spare his life, as does Queen Anne. Louis at first refuses, but Philippe bluffs that he is more terrified of the returning to prison in the iron mask than death itself, begging to be executed rather than sent back to it all. Louis orders him placed in the Bastille and once again in the mask. In the aftermath, Christine is found to have hanged herself from her bedroom window.

When D'Artagnan informs Athos, Porthos, and Aramis about where Philippe is they brush off their old musketeer uniforms again and break into the Bastille prison and escape with Philippe. Louis, however, has prepared an ambush. Fortunately, the narrowness of the corridor and the guards' respect for D'Artagnan, their captain, prevents them from overwhelming the four Musketeers with their numbers, although the five men eventually end up trapped against a barred door at the end of the corridor with no way out. Determined to save his friends, Philippe offers to give himself up in exchange for their lives. D'Artagnan refuses, revealing to everyone's astonishment, that he is actually the twins' father, having had an affair with Queen Anne, and that it was out of fatherly devotion that he served Louis, not loyalty. D'Artagnan adds that he feels the pride as a father only for the first time upon learning that Philippe is also his son.

The four Musketeers and Philippe make a final charge at Louis's front line. Their "magnificent valour" stuns the soldiers into immobility, angering Louis and forcing him to repeatedly shout orders to fire. He forces one of the soldiers to fire his musket, setting off the rest with many of the men shutting their eyes or looking away out of reluctance. The smoke clears to reveal the five men still standing; all the shots, barring a few flesh wounds, missed.

An enraged Louis lunges toward Philippe and tries to stab him. D'Artagnan jumps between them and is fatally wounded. Philippe knocks Louis down and begins to strangle him, but D'Artagnan, with his dying breaths, reminds Philippe that Louis is his brother. Philippe's mask is removed so that D'Artagnan can see his face one last time. Saying the musketeer call, D'Artagnan dies as Philippe comments that D'Artagnan was the one wearing the mask all along. Closing his eyes, Philippe embraces his father one time only as he starts to mourn over his death. D'Artagnan's right-hand man, Lieutenant Andre, is furious at Louis for killing D'Artagnan and upon finding out Philippe is brother to Louis and of royal blood, orders his men to close the door and swears them to silence. By the time another battalion breaks in, the three musketeers and Lieutenant Andre have made Louis and Philippe swap clothes and locked Louis in the iron mask. Philippe introduces Athos, Porthos, and Aramis as his royal council and truest friends. Posing as the king, Philippe orders the guards to take Louis and lock him away. The Musketeers give their respect and kneel before Philippe, honoring him as their true King.

Philippe, Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and Queen Anne attend D'Artagnan's funeral, in which the three musketeers are finally redeemed. D'Artagnan's tombstone has a engraving of an iron mask on it. After the funeral, Philippe asks Athos to love him like a son and Athos accepts, kissing Philippe's hand. Afterwards, the three musketeers walk away through the long line of proud saluting musketeers under the helm of Lieutenant Andre as new captain, while the elite group chants their battle cry "One for All, All for One". Louis (whom Philippe granted royal pardon being his brother) now lives in a country house, where he is often visited by his mother. Thereafter, France was reformed under Philippe (under the alias of Louis XIV) who gave his people food, prosperity and peace. He is remembered as the greatest ruler in the history of his nation.



In this version, the "man in the iron mask" is introduced as prisoner number 64389000 based on the number related to his namesake found at the Bastille. Vaux-le-Vicomte, Seine-et-Marne, France is the stand in for all the scenes that are supposed to be Versailles, although in the book, the switch between Louis and Philippe happens at Vaux-le-Vicomte. Vaux-le-Vicomte, the prototype for Versailles, was built for the real finance minister of Louis XlV, Nicolas Fouquet. In some versions the switch takes place at a real and actual event the "fête de Vaux"(17 August 1661), a famous party for the unveiling of the new château. Attended by Louis XlV at which the king's own palace was seen to be inferior to the new château of his non royal finance minister. The famous fête led to the downfall of Fouquet and the building of Versailles.

Differences between versions[edit]

The novel and the filmed versions of the tale have some differences in how they portray the Royal Twins and in how they present the plot to switch them.

In Dumas' The Vicomte de Bragelonne, although the plot to replace King Louis XIV with his twin brother is foiled, the twin brother is initially depicted as a much more sympathetic character than the King. However, in the last part of the novel, the king is portrayed as an intelligent, more mature and slightly misunderstood man who in fact deserves the throne - and the Musketeers themselves are split, Aramis (with assistance from Porthos) siding with the prisoner, D'Artagnan with King Louis, and Athos retired from politics entirely. In the 1929 silent version, The Iron Mask starring Douglas Fairbanks as D'Artagnan, the King is depicted favorably and the twin brother is depicted as a pawn in an evil plot, so the plot being foiled by D'Artagnan and his Three Musketeer friends seems more appropriate.

But in the 1998 version, the King is depicted very negatively while his twin brother is portrayed with considerable sympathy, with the plot to switch the two brothers being presented as an attempt to save France from a bad king by replacing him with the one man in France who has an equal claim. D'Artagnan finds himself torn between loyalty to his King and loyalty to his Three Musketeer friends; the way in which this conflict is resolved provides much of the dramatic tension in this version.

Furthermore, it is revealed that D'Artagnan himself is the actual father of the twins, as well as being dedicated to the interests of France. His paternal feelings therefore complicate his dilemma, as he hopes that his son will one day prove himself worthy of his role in life, admitting at the end that it is only when meeting Philippe that he felt true pride as a father.

Historical and literary inaccuracies[edit]

All historical persons and events depicted in the film are heavily fictionalized (as mentioned in an opening narration with the voice of Jeremy Irons), even more than in Dumas' original works. Historical blunders also abound:

  • A portrait of Louis XV can be seen in Louis XIV's apartments: the film takes place about half a century before Louis XIV's great-grandson and successor was even born.
  • The fact that Louis XIV, after being replaced by his twin brother, was remembered as France's most generous king, is generally viewed as a huge historical error by French audiences.[3] Louis XIV is considered by the general public in France as an authoritarian and heartless king, if not a political genius.
  • D'Artagnan's death is inconsistent with the actual character's biography: the real d'Artagnan died in battle at the siege of Maastricht, more than ten years later, as depicted in The Vicomte de Bragelonne. His death is consistent with the most important filmed versions of the tale though, including the 1929 and 1939 versions.
  • Louis XIV had, in real life, a brother called Philippe, Philippe d'Orléans, who is not depicted in the film. He was not, however, the King's twin.
  • Set in 1662, the film implies that the king is unmarried; by then he had been married for some two years to Infanta María Teresa of Spain
  • Although the original section of the Palace of Versailles serves as a setting for part of the film (set in 1662), construction was did not commence until 1664.
  • Notwithstanding the peace and prosperity alluded to at the film's conclusion, Louis XIV spent most of the remainder of his reign at war.

The film is also inconsistent in its treatment of Alexandre Dumas' fictional universe: the plot reveals that d'Artagnan was Anne of Austria's lover (and hence the father of Louis XIV and his twin brother), while none of Dumas's works even remotely implied such a relationship.

The character of Christine is comparable to the historical Louise de la Vallière, a mistress of Louis XIV's who, in Dumas's novel, is also loved by both the young king and Raoul.


Despite receiving a rather mixed to negative critical response, it was successful financially, benefiting greatly from Leonardo DiCaprio's post-Titanic boost in popularity.

The film currently holds a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 36 reviews. It holds a 48% rating on Metacritic, based on 18 reviews.

Leonardo DiCaprio won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple for his interactions as twins in the film.


The Man in the Iron Mask (Original Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Nick Glennie-Smith
Released March 10, 1998 (1998-03-10)
Genre Soundtrack
Length 50:34
Label Milan Records
Nick Glennie-Smith chronology
Home Alone 3
The Man in the Iron Mask
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars link
Filmtracks 3/5 stars link

Music for this film was written by English composer Nick Glennie-Smith. Figure skater Alexei Yagudin became a gold medalist skating to this music in the 2002 Winter Olympics. He won with the program The Man in the Iron Mask, based on the movie soundtrack.[4]

  1. "Surrounded"
  2. "Heart of a King"
  3. "The Pig Chase"
  4. "The Ascension"
  5. "King for a King"
  6. "The Moon Beckons"
  7. "The Masked Ball"
  8. "A Taste of Something"
  9. "Kissy Kissie"
  10. "Training to Be King"
  11. "The Rose"
  12. "All Will Be Well"
  13. "All for One"
  14. "Greatest Mystery of Life"
  15. "Raoul and Christine"
  16. "It is a Trap"
  17. "Angry Athos"
  18. "Raoul's Letter"
  19. "The Palace"
  20. "Raoul's Death"
  21. "Queen Approaches"


  1. ^ "The Man in the Iron Mask". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ Olthuis, Andrew. "The Man in the Iron Mask". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ Définition de Swashbuckler dans le glossaire Nanarland
  4. ^ See his costume for this program at

4. Box Office Mojo Weekend Charts for 1998, weekend 1 to 52. Retrieved 2007-09-04

External links[edit]