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 drama 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 a cruel and self-centered version of King Louis XIV, who spends his time declaring a war, distributing rotten food to the now-rioting citizens of Paris, and seducing women who hope to win his heart and become Queen.

The Three Musketeers have gone their own way at this point - Aramis is now an aging priest, Porthos likes to spend his time drinking and hanging around with women half his age (who fancy him) and Athos is retired and lives with his only son, Raoul who is preparing to join the Musketeers. D'Artagnan is the only one who has remained in the Musketeers and is now the Captain.

It is the day of a huge festival at the castle to which Raoul is escorting the woman he loves, Christine Bellefort. He has just built up enough courage to propose Christine with his mother's ring which his father gave to him earlier that day. At the festival, the two loves are greeted by D'Artagnan who congratulates Raoul on being accepted into the Musketeers and wishes him luck. Soon after, King Louis sees Christine and becomes instantly attracted to her and obtains their names from his council.

Before Raoul can profess his love and propose to her, Louis announces a contest in which all are to participate. He places a diamond necklace on a piglet's head which has a unicorn horn on it and the first one to catch the pig, gets the prize. Raoul goes to win the necklace for Christine, but as she goes to watch the King uses water fountains to lead her towards an area where he is. The King tries to woo Christine, however, just as he is about to kiss her, an assassin tries to kill the King. D'Artagnan who has been silently keeping watch on the King see's this and saves the King and Christine. Raoul then comes up and takes Christine away. The King then arranges to have Raoul called back to serve in the army.

D'Artagnan goes to see Athos to try and warn him of the King's eye on Christine, but before he can, Raoul comes home and gives his father back the engagement ring stating that "he cannot marry her and make her a widow at the same time". Athos realizes the King's eye has fallen on Christine and angrily tells D'Artagnan that if Raoul is harmed in any way, Louis and any on his side will be his enemy.

Unfortunately, Athos' friendship with D'Artagnan is shattered when Raoul is killed by the cannons on the battlefront. Driven by revenge and anger, Athos attempts to assassinate Louis, but is stopped at the gate by the guards. He manages to wound a few before D'Artagnan and the other Musketeers are able to stop him. D'Artagnan orders them to let Athos go home, but Athos still refers to D'Artagnan as a traitor.

After hearing what happened, Aramis plots to overthrow Louis. He asks for Athos, Porthos' and D'Artagnan's help and all agree but D'Artagnan who refuses to aid them for unknown reasons. The three musketeers successfully free a mysterious young man in an Iron Mask from the Bastille. They take the man to a safe house in the village where he is revealed to be the identical twin of Louis: Phillipe. Although he looks the same as his cold-hearten brother, Phillipe is the polar opposite, and he accepts the truth behind his past.

Meanwhile, Louis succeeds in seducing Christine (Louis tells her that he ordered Raoul a place far away from the battlefront, but his orders were disobeyed by the general), and they eventually make love, but Christine later reveals that she was pretending to love him.

Athos, Porthos and Aramis teach Phillipe how to act like Louis so as to replace Louis with Phillipe, and they attempt to abduct Louis and take him to the Bastille during a fancy dress ball, replacing him with Phillipe and putting him in Phillipe's cell in the Bastille. They succeed at first, but Phillipe's good manners give it away a bit, especially after he helps a fallen woman to her feet and spares Christine's life after she calls him a lying murderer after having found out the truth about Raoul's death. Unfortunately, D'Artagnan asks Phillipe to escort him to the dungeons, and Phillipe can't refuse. They arrive at the dungeons just as Athos, Porthos and Aramis are about to sail to the Bastille. They make a trade for the brothers' lives, but during their escape, Phillipe is recaptured.

Phillipe is brought to Louis by D'Artagnan, Anne comes and reveals that they are both her sons to an astonished D'Artagnan. Their mother and D'Artagnan beg for Phillipe's life to be spared. However, Phillipe begs to be killed instead of being sent back to the prison. Louis decides to send him back to the prison, where he will wear the mask until he loves it. That night Christine hangs herself.

D'Artagnan sends a message to Athos, Porthos, and Aramis that he will provide them with a 10 minute window to save Phillipe. Thinking that it is a trap they wear their old Musketeer uniforms to enter the prison. Louis has D'Artagnan watched and knows that they are trying to rescue Phillipe. He arrives with Lt Andre and the guard to trap Athos, Porthos, Aramis, D'Artagnan, and Phillipe in the prison. D'Artagnan refuses to give up Phillipe, reveals that he is the twin's father, and the five then charge the other guard musketeers who all miss.

As Lt Andre and the other musketeers show their respects, Louis becomes impatient and tries to kill Phillipe himself but D'Artagnan blocks and is killed instead. Before dying, D'Artagnan reveals to the musketeers that the two are brothers. Lt Andre orders his men out and collaborates with the group to switch kings. Phillipe asks Athos to be his father-figure. It is later revealed that Phillipe becomes a good king known as Louis XIV and pardons his brother Louis to live quietly.



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 the plot to switch them.

In Dumas's 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 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 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: the film takes place about half a century before the birth of Louis XIV's great-grandson and successor.
  • D'Artagnan's death is inconsistent with biographic fact: the real d'Artagnan died in battle at the siege of Maastricht, more than ten years later.
  • Louis XIV had a real-life brother, Philippe d'Orléans, who is not depicted in the film and was not the King's twin.
  • Set in 1662, the film portrays the king as unmarried; by then he had been married for some two years to Infanta María Teresa of Spain
  • 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, 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.

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.[3]

  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. ^ 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]