The Queen (film)

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The Queen
The Queen movie.jpg
Teaser poster
Directed by Stephen Frears
Produced by Andy Harries
Christine Langan
Tracey Seaward
Francois Ivernel
Written by Peter Morgan
Starring Helen Mirren
Michael Sheen
James Cromwell
Helen McCrory
Alex Jennings
Roger Allam
Sylvia Syms
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Affonso Beato
Editing by Lucia Zucchetti
Studio Granada Productions
BIM Distribuzione
Pathé Renn Production
France 3 Cinéma
Canal+
Distributed by Pathé Pictures
Miramax Films
20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • 2 September 2006 (2006-09-02) (Venice)
  • 15 September 2006 (2006-09-15) (United Kingdom)
  • 18 October 2006 (2006-10-18) (France)
Running time 97 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £9.8 million ($15 million)
Box office £77,865,176 ($123,384,128)[1]

The Queen is a 2006 British drama film that depicts the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on 31 August 1997. The film was directed by Stephen Frears, written by Peter Morgan, and starring Helen Mirren in the title role of Queen Elizabeth II.[2] The Royal Family regards Diana's death as a private affair and thus not to be treated as an official Royal death. This is in contrast with the views of Tony Blair and Diana's ex-husband, Prince Charles, who favour the general public's desire for an official expression of grief. Matters are further complicated by the media, royal protocol regarding Diana's official status, and wider issues about Republicanism.

The film's release coincided with a revival of favourable public sentiment in respect to the monarchy and a downturn in fortunes for Blair, whose resignation came several months later. Michael Sheen reprised his role as Blair from The Deal, and he did so again in The Special Relationship. The film garnered general critical and popular acclaim for Mirren, in which she praised the Queen and was invited to dinner at Buckingham Palace after the film's release.[3] However, Mirren could not attend due to filming commitments in Hollywood.[4]

Plot[edit]

In the 1997 general election, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) becomes Britain's Labour prime minister. The Queen (Helen Mirren) is slightly wary of Blair and his pledge to modernise Britain, but he promises to respect the Royal Family. Three months later, Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in a car crash at the Alma Bridge tunnel in Paris. Blair's director of communications, Alastair Campbell (Mark Bazeley), prepares a speech in which Diana is described as the people's princess. Blair gives his speech the next day and the phrase catches on. Within the next few days following Diana's death, millions of people across London display an outpouring of grief at Buckingham and Kensington Palaces. Meanwhile, the Royal Family are still at their summer estate in Balmoral Castle. Diana's death sparks division among numerous members of the family, in which they observe that, since Diana was divorced from her husband, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (Alex Jennings), a year earlier, she was no longer a part of the family. Diana's funeral arrangements are thus best left as a private affair of her noble family, the Spencers. Charles argues that the mother of a future king cannot be dismissed so lightly, while the Queen authorises the use of an aircraft of the Royal Air Force to bring Diana's body back to Britain.

In London, flowers begin to pile up before the palace railings, which forces the changing of the Queen's Guard to use another gate. British tabloids become inflammatory about the lack of a statement from the Royal Family. Charles leaves no doubt that he shares Blair's views about the need for a statement. As the Royal Family's popularity plummets, Blair's acceptance rises, to the delight of his anti-monarchist advisers and wife, Cherie (Helen McCrory). However, Blair does not share these sentiments. While disagreeing with the Queen's course of action, Blair begins to develop an admiration for her. Blair also disagrees with his wife's views and tells her that a republican Britain is ludicrous and begins to denounce the anti-monarchical disdain of his Labour Party advisors. Blair immediately calls the Queen at Balmoral and recommends three strong measures to regain public confidence of the monarchy: attend a public funeral for Diana at Westminster Abbey, fly a Union flag at half-mast over Buckingham Palace, and speak to the nation about Diana's life and legacy in a televised address.

Blair's recommendations outrage several other members of the Royal Family including Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (James Cromwell) and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (Sylvia Syms). Philip is surprised that Elton John is asked to attend and sing a song, "Candle in the Wind", in Diana's memory. Britons across the country view such steps as an undignified surrender to public hysteria. The Queen seems concerned about this and although she shares their feelings, she has doubts as she closely follows the news. The Queen believes that there has been a shift in public values and that perhaps she should abdicate. The Queen Mother dismisses the idea by saying that she is one of the greatest assets the monarchy has ever had, stating: "The real problem will come when you leave". She also reminds the Queen of the promise she made in Cape Town, South Africa on her 21st birthday, in which she promised that her "whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong..." Meanwhile, Philip tries to distract William and Harry (Jake Taylor Shantos and Dash Barber) from Diana's death by taking them deer stalking. While venturing out alone in her classic Land Rover, the Queen damages it while crossing a river and is forced to telephone for assistance. The Queen weeps in frustration, but catches sight of a majestic red deer which Philip had been stalking with William and Harry. The Queen is struck by his beauty and the two stare at each other. Hearing a distant gunshot, the Queen shoos the animal away and decides to carry out Blair's recommendations. While preparing to return to London to attend a public funeral for Diana, the Queen is horrified to learn that the deer has been killed on a neighbouring estate, asks to see the stag, and is upset at its loss.

The Royal Family finally return to London to inspect the floral tributes to Diana. While he was watching live television coverage with his staff, Blair becomes angry and disappointed at his Labour Party advisors, declaring that the Queen is admirable and Diana had thrown everything she offered back in her face and seemed to destroy everything held most dear by the Queen. The Queen later follows Blair's advice to make a public statement on live television, during which she speaks about the life and legacy of Diana and described her as an exceptional and gifted human being. Two months after Diana's death, Blair visits Buckingham Palace to attend a weekly meeting with the Queen. The Queen has finally regained her popularity, but she believes that Blair has benefited himself from her acquiescence to his advice and that she will never fully recover from that week. The Queen warns Blair that he will find that public opinion can rapidly turn against him, and states that life in Britain have changed and that the monarchy must modernise in the future. When Blair suggests that he can help with this, the Queen replies to him: "Don't get ahead of yourself, Prime Minister. Remember, I'm supposed to be the one advising you".

Cast[edit]

Actor/Actress Role Notes
Helen Mirren The Queen This film is the fourth time that Mirren has portrayed a British queen: the first was a queen consort, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in The Madness of King George (1994), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; the second was a queen regnant, Elizabeth I, in the 2005 miniseries Elizabeth I. She also played a policewoman, under cover as the Queen, in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.
Michael Sheen Prime Minister Tony Blair Sheen had previously played Blair in the Channel 4 television film The Deal, also directed by Frears and written by Morgan. He reprised his role in The Special Relationship.
James Cromwell Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Helen McCrory Cherie Blair Tony Blair's wife. Like Sheen, McCrory reprised this role in The Special Relationship.
Alex Jennings Charles, Prince of Wales Diana's ex-husband
Roger Allam Robin Janvrin (later Lord Janvrin) In this film, Janvrin is private secretary to the Queen, although he was the deputy private secretary at the time of Diana's death.
Sylvia Syms Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Tim McMullan Stephen Lamport Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales
Mark Bazeley Alastair Campbell Director of Communications and Strategy for the Prime Minister
Douglas Reith Lord Airlie Lord Chamberlain
Robin Soans Equerry
Lola Peploe Janvrin's Secretary
Tom Hanks Himself Archive footage (uncredited)
Steven Spielberg Himself Archive footage (uncredited)
Tom Cruise Himself Archive footage (uncredited)
Nicole Kidman Herself Archive footage (uncredited)
Dodi Fayed Himself Archive footage (uncredited)
Bill Clinton Himself Archive footage (uncredited)
Nelson Mandela Himself Archive footage (uncredited)
Diana, Princess of Wales Herself Archive footage (uncredited)
Anthony Debaeck Catholic Priest
Trevor McDonald Newsreader ITV newsreader, covered Diana's death
Jake Taylor Shantos Prince William Diana's sons
Dash Barber Prince Harry

Production[edit]

Filming[edit]

The screenplay was written by Peter Morgan.[5] It was produced by Pathé Pictures and Granada Productions (ITV Productions). Stephen Frears had a clause in his contract from The Deal that allowed him to direct any follow-ups or sequels, and he was officially announced as director in September 2003.[6] The film was shot on location in the United Kingdom, in England in London, Halton House and Waddesdon Manor, in Buckinghamshire, Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire and in Scotland at Balmoral Castle,[citation needed] Castle Fraser[7] and Cluny Castle[8] in Aberdeenshire, and Blairquhan Castle and Culzean Castle in South Ayrshire. The sets were designed by Alan MacDonald, which won him Best Art Direction in a Contemporary Film from the Art Directors Guild and Best Technical Achievement at the British Independent Film Awards.[9] Mirren says transforming herself into the Queen came almost naturally after the wig and glasses, since she shares a default facial expression — a slightly downturned mouth – with the monarch.[10] She regularly reviewed film and video footage of Elizabeth and kept photographs in her trailer during production.[11] She also undertook extensive voice coaching, faithfully reproducing the Queen's delivery of her televised speech to the world. Morgan has said that her performance was so convincing that, by the end of production, crew members who had been accustomed to slouching or relaxing when they addressed her were standing straight up and respectfully folding their hands behind their backs.[10] Mirren arranged to spend time off-camera with the supporting cast playing other members of the Royal Family, including James Cromwell, Alex Jennings and Sylvia Syms so they would be as comfortable with each other as a real family.[11] Shots involving the Queen were shot in 35mm film and shots of Tony Blair were shot in 16mm film to enhance the contrast of different worlds.[12]

Television viewership and DVD release[edit]

ITV's role in the production of the film allowed them an option for its television premiere and it was broadcast on 2 September 2007 (coinciding that weekend with a memorial service to Diana) to an average audience of 7.9 million, winning its timeslot.[13][14] The DVD was released in the UK on 12 March 2007. Special features include a making-of featurette and an audio commentary by Stephen Frears, writer Peter Morgan and Robert Lacey, biographer of Queen Elizabeth II. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD in the USA on 24 April 2007 and, as of 2013, US DVD sales had exceeded $29 million.[15]

Historical accuracy[edit]

Some aspects of the characters are known to be true to their real-life counterparts. Cherie Blair's hostility to the monarchy has been widely reported, including her refusal to curtsey.[16] According to Morgan, "cabbage" is an actual term of endearment Philip uses for his wife («mon chou» – "my cabbage" – is a standard affectionate nickname in French).[10]

Other elements represent characteristics associated with people depicted. The electric guitar seen behind Blair in his personal office is a reference to his past membership in the band Ugly Rumours while a student. The Newcastle United football jersey he wears to a family breakfast is a reference to his support of that team. The film also shows Alastair Campbell coining the term 'the people's princess', but in 2007 he revealed that it was Tony Blair who came up with it.[17]

A notable inaccuracy is that Robin Janvrin is represented as the Queen's private secretary during the aftermath of Diana's death. In fact, that position was then occupied by Janvrin's predecessor, Sir Robert Fellowes, a brother-in-law of Diana, Princess of Wales; Janvrin was the deputy private secretary until 1999. However, the film is accurate in depicting Janvrin as the person who delivered the news of Diana's accident to the Queen at Balmoral during the night.[18]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film exceeded box-office expectations; with a budget of $15 million the film earned $56.4 million in the United States and Canada as of September 2006.[19]

Critical reception[edit]

Before the film was released, critics praised both Stephen Frears and Peter Morgan, who later received Golden Globe and Academy Award-nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay. Michael Sheen's performance as Tony Blair earned him particular acclaim. Helen Mirren's portrayal garnered her acclaim from critics around the world. Her portrayal made her a favourite for the Academy Award for Best Actress well before the film was released in theatres. After its showing at the Venice Film Festival, Mirren received a five-minute-long standing ovation.[20] Roger Ebert came out of recovery from surgery to give the film a review. He called it "spellbinding" and gave it four out of four stars.[21] The Queen was the most critically acclaimed film of 2006 with Mirren being the most critically acclaimed actress of the year. The Queen has 97% positive reviews on the film-critics aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes.[22]

Amongst the few negative reviews, Slant Magazine's Nick Schager criticised the insider portraiture of the film as "somewhat less than revelatory, in part because Morgan's script succumbs to cutie-pie jokiness [...] and broad caricature", mentioning particularly "James Cromwell's Prince Philip, who envisions the crowned heads as exiled victims and the gathering crowds as encroaching 'Zulus'".[23]

Top ten lists[edit]

The film appeared on many US critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2006.[24]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Helen Mirren won at least 29 major awards for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, many of which are listed below. She was nominated for at least 3 more. In most of her acceptance speeches, she expressed her admiration for the real Queen, and dedicated both her Golden Globe and her Oscar to Elizabeth II.

Academy Awards record
1. Best Actress (Helen Mirren)
Golden Globe Awards record
1. Best Actress (Helen Mirren)
2. Best Screenplay
BAFTA Awards record
1. Best Picture
2. Best Actress (Helen Mirren)

79th Academy Awards (2006)

2006 British Academy Film (BAFTA) Awards

2006 Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • Won: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role (Theatrical movie) — Helen Mirren

2006 Directors Guild of America Awards

  • Nominated: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures — Stephen Frears

2006 Writers Guild of America Awards

2006 Producers Guild of America Awards

64th Golden Globe Awards

2006 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards

2006 Toronto Film Critics Association Awards

2006 New York Film Critics Circle Awards

2006 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

2006 National Society of Film Critics Awards

2006 Satellite Awards

  • Nominated: Best Motion Picture, Drama
  • Won: Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama — Helen Mirren
  • Nominated: Best Director — Stephen Frears
  • Nominated: Best Screenplay, Original — Peter Morgan

2006 National Board of Review Awards

2006 Chicago International Film Festival

2006 British Independent Film Awards

  • Won: Best Screenplay — Peter Morgan
  • Nominated: Best British Independent Film
  • Nominated: Best Director — Stephen Frears
  • Nominated: Best Actress — Helen Mirren
  • Nominated: Best Technical Achievement — Alan MacDonald (production design)
  • Nominated: Best Technical Achievement — Daniel Phillips (makeup)

2006 Venice Film Festival

Soundtrack[edit]

The Queen
Studio album by Alexandre Desplat
Released 26 September 2006
Recorded 2006
Genre Soundtrack
Label Milan
Alexandre Desplat chronology
The Singer
(2006)
The Queen
(2006)
The Painted Veil (2006)

The soundtrack album was released on the Milan label on 26 September 2006. The original score and songs were composed by Alexandre Desplat and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The album was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score. It was also nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music (lost to the score of Babel).

  1. The Queen – 2:09
  2. Hills of Scotland – 2:25
  3. People's Princess I – 4:08
  4. A New Prime Minister – 1:55
  5. H.R.H. – 2:22
  6. The Stag – 1:50
  7. Mourning – 3:50
  8. Elizabeth & Tony – 2:04
  9. River of Sorrow – 1:59
  10. The Flowers of Buckingham – 2:28
  11. The Queen Drives – 1:48
  12. Night in Balmoral – 1:09
  13. Tony & Elizabeth – 2:04
  14. People's Princess II – 4:08
  15. Queen of Hearts – 3:33
  16. Libera Me (Verdi) – 6:27

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Queen". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  2. ^ Bastin, Giselle (Summer 2009). "Filming the Ineffable: Biopics of the British Royal Family". Auto/Biography Studies 24 (1): 34–52. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Helen Mirren at the Oscars, news.scotsman.com
  4. ^ Mirren 'too busy' to meet Queen BBC News, 10 May 2007
  5. ^ Sarris, Andrew (15 October 2006). "Sublime Queen Opens Festival with Mirren's Crowning Role". The New York Observer. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Wells, Matt (17 September 2003). "Frears on board for new Deal". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 31 August 2007. 
  7. ^ "Castles of Scotland - Castle Fraser". britainirelandcastles.com. Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Fitzpatrick, Maria (24 June 2009). "Dream property to let: take to the tower". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 November 2013. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  9. ^ "Alan MacDonald". Artistdirect.com. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c Gritten, David; 9 September 2006; 'I do look a bit like the Queen, you know'; The Daily Telegraph; Retrieved 26 November 2006.
  11. ^ a b Levy, Emanuel; The Queen according to Frears, emanuellevy.com; retrieved 26 November 2006
  12. ^ The Queen DVD Commentary
  13. ^ Manzoor, Sarfraz (27 February 2007). "The power behind the throne". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  14. ^ Leigh, Holmwood (3 September 2007). "Queen commands 8m for ITV1". Media Guardian (London). Retrieved 4 October 2007. 
  15. ^ The Queen, The Numbers – Box Office Data
  16. ^ Rayner, Gordon (21 April 2006). "Cherie: That b**** Princess Anne". Daily Mail. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  17. ^ Tony coined the 'people's princess' 9 July 2007, The Daily Telegraph.
  18. ^ Junor, Penny (2005). The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-710215-1.
  19. ^ The Queen, Lee's Movie Info
  20. ^ Marin Independent Journal – Dame Helen Mirren's appearance at Mill Valley Film Festival fit for 'The Queen'
  21. ^ "The Queen". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  22. ^ The Queen – Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes
  23. ^ The Queen, Slant Magazine, 27 September 2006. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  24. ^ "Metacritic: 2006 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2008. 

External links[edit]

Interviews