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
Music by Nick Glennie-Smith
Cinematography Peter Suschitzky
Edited by William Hoy
Distributed by United Artists Pictures, inc.
MGM Distribution co.
Release date
  • 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 $183 million[2]

The Man in the Iron Mask is a 1998 American action drama film 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.[3] 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 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. Like the 1998 version, the two aforementioned adaptations were also released through United Artists.


In 1662, the Kingdom of France faces bankruptcy from King Louis XIV's wars against the Dutch, which has left the country's agriculture impeded by a heavy tax burden and forced the citizens to live on rotten food. Though the country appears to be on the verge of a revolution, Louis continues to spend his time preparing for war and seducing countless women. The three musketeers have gone their separate ways; Aramis is now an aging priest, Porthos has become a womanizing drunkard, and Athos is retired and living with his only son, Raoul, who aspires to join the musketeers. The only one who has remained in the musketeers is D'Artagnan, who now serves as the captain.

At a festival, Louis sets his eyes on Christine Bellefort, Raoul's fiancé, and immediately plots to get rid of Raoul by sending him to the battlefront; he is killed by cannon fire. Aware that Louis orchestrated his son's death, Athos renounces his allegiance to the king and goes into exile. After an assassination attempt on Louis by the Jesuit order is foiled by D'Artagnan, Louis instructs Aramis to hunt down and kill their leader. In response, Aramis summons Porthos, Athos and D'Artagnan for a secret meeting in which he reveals that he himself is the Jesuits' leader and has a plan to depose Louis. Athos and Porthos agree, but D'Artagnan refuses. Athos brands him a traitor and threatens him with death should they ever meet again. Meanwhile, Louis seduces Christine, but she continues to suspect his part in Raoul's death.

The musketeers enter the Bastille prison and free an unnamed prisoner in an iron mask, taking him to the countryside, where Aramis reveals that he is Philippe, Louis's identical twin brother. Aramis reveals that the night Louis was born, his mother, Queen Anne, actually gave birth to twins. Louis XIII, hoping to avoid dynastic warfare between his sons, sent Philippe away to live in the countryside while naming Louis XIV as his heir. After Louis XIII died, Anne revealed Philippe's existence to Louis XIV, who was too superstitious to have his brother killed but had him imprisoned in the iron mask to keep his identity secret, something Aramis carried out. Aramis's plan is now to redeem himself and save France by replacing Louis with Philippe. The musketeers begin training Philippe to act and behave like Louis, while Athos develops fatherly feelings for him.

At a masquerade ball, the musketeers lure Louis to his quarters and subdue him, dressing Philippe in his clothes while taking Louis to the dungeons. D'Artagnan, however, sees through the ruse, after Christine accuses Philippe with evidence of Louis's role in Raoul's death and is not punished. He forcibly escorts Philippe to the dungeons and they confront the musketeers before they can take Louis to the Bastille. They trade twins, but Philippe is captured before the musketeers escape. Though Louis is prepared to kill Philippe, D'Artagnan begs him not to. Philippe bluffs that he is more afraid of the prison than death itself, which convinces Louis to return Philippe to the Bastille. Christine commits suicide out of grief.

D'Artagnan contacts the musketeers for help in rescuing Philippe from the Bastille. Louis, who suspected an attempt, ambushes them at the prison. Though he offers D'Artagnan clemency in exchange for surrender, D'Artagnan refuses, privately revealing to his friends that Louis and Philippe are actually his bastard sons from an affair with the Queen, the true reason for his loyalty to Louis. They charge one final time at Louis and his men and are fired upon; their bravery compels the soldiers to close their eyes before firing and all miss. Louis attempts to stab Philippe but wounds D'Artagnan fatally and he dies in his friends' arms. Philippe almost strangles Louis to death but is convinced to show his brother mercy. D'Artagnan's top lieutenant, Andre, angered by his mentor's death, swears his men to secrecy and sides with Philippe. They switch the twins' places again and Philippe orders Louis locked away, naming Athos, Porthos and Aramis as his closest advisors.

A small funeral is held for D'Artagnan and Philippe admits to Athos that he has come to love him like a father, which Athos reciprocates. He issues Louis a royal pardon and sends him to live peacefully in the countryside, and goes on to become one of France's greatest kings.



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. Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte 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 historically built for Nicolas Fouquet, Superintendent of Finances for Louis XlV.[citation needed]

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. The party was attended by Louis XlV, who realized that the king's own palace was seen as 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.[citation needed]

Differences between versions[edit]

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

In Alexandre Dumas' The Vicomte de Bragelonne, although the plot to replace King Louis XIV with his twin brother is foiled, the twin 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 retiring 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 as a pawn in an evil plot whose thwarting by D'Artagnan and his companions seems more appropriate.

In the 1998 film, the King is depicted negatively while his twin brother is sympathetically portrayed. D'Artagnan's loyalties are torn between his King and his three Musketeer friends. He is also revealed as the father of the twins, as well as being dedicated to the interests of France.

Historical inaccuracies[edit]

Historical persons and events depicted in the film are heavily fictionalized, as declared in an opening narration.

  • A portrait of Louis XV can be seen in Louis XIV's apartments. Louis XV was the great-grandson and successor of Louis XIV. He was born in 1710, and the events of the film take place about half a century before his birth.
  • D'Artagnan's death is inconsistent with biographic fact. The character is based on Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, a captain of the Musketeers of the Guard, who was killed in battle during the Siege of Maastricht (1673).
  • Louis XIV had a real-life brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, who is not depicted in the film and was not the King's twin. Louis XIV was born in 1638. Philippe I was his younger brother, born in 1640. Philippe was the founder of the House of Orléans, a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon.
  • Set in 1662, the film portrays the king as unmarried. The historical Louis XIV married his first wife Maria Theresa of Spain in 1660. They remained married until her death in 1683.
  • Notwithstanding the peace and prosperity alluded to at the film's conclusion, Louis XIV spent most of the remainder of his reign at war.

Critical reception[edit]

Despite receiving a rather mixed to negative critical response, the film 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.[citation needed]

DiCaprio won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple for his interactions as twins in the film.[citation needed]


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. ^ Box Office Mojo Weekend Charts for 1998, weekend 1 to 52
  3. ^ Olthuis, Andrew. "The Man in the Iron Mask". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  4. ^ See his costume for this program at

External links[edit]