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 $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.


The Kingdom of France is under the reign of a cruel and self-centered version of King Louis XIV (DiCaprio), who spends his time declaring a war against the Dutch, distributing rotten food to the rioting citizens of Paris, and with women who attempt to seduce him in order to become the next queen of France.

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

D'Artagnan comes by and informs Aramis that the King requests a meeting with him. The King's chief advisor informs Aramis that Louis is having problems with the Jesuits, who have declared Louis' wars are unjust and the source of the public's hunger (due to the agricultural sector being impeded by the heavy tax burden as a result of these wars). Aramis suggests the King speak to the Jesuits' leader but the chief advisor says the identity of the Jesuits' leader is kept secret. Louis privately orders Aramis to kill the secret leader of the Jesuits. Aramis accepts the mission saying, "When I discover the identity of this Jesuit rebel I will kill both him and the man who told me".

It is the day of a huge festival at the palace, to which Raoul is escorting the woman he loves, Christine Bellefort (Judith Godrèche). He has just built up enough courage to propose to Christine with his late mother's ring. At the festival, the two lovers 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 of advisors. D'Artagnan tells Louis of his concerns for the King's safety due to the threats from the Jesuits.

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 (which has a horn strapped to its head, resembling a unicorn) and announces that the first one to catch the pig will get the prize. Raoul goes to win the necklace for Christine, but as she goes to watch Louis uses water fountains to lead her towards a secluded area. Louis tries to woo Christine, however, just as he is about to kiss her, a Jesuit assassin tries to kill the King. D'Artagnan, who has been silently keeping watch, sees this and saves Louis and Christine. Raoul then comes up and takes Christine away. Louis then arranges to have Raoul recalled up 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 become 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 calls a secret meeting with Athos, Porthos, and D'Artagnan in an underground tomb. Aramis reveals Louis' order to kill the Jesuit leader, who is revealed to be Aramis himself. Aramis proposes a plot to overthrow Louis and asks his friends for their help. Athos and Porthos agree to help but D'Artagnan refuses saying he cannot violate his oath and betray the King he has sworn to protect and defend with his life. Aramis privately tells D'Artagnan he knows he carries a secret that is hurting him deeply. Aramis, Athos, and Porthos successfully free a mysterious young man in an iron mask from the Bastille.

They take the man, Philippe, to a country house, where he recalls that he grew up in the country until one day a man in black imprisoned him in the Bastille and placed the mask on him. Aramis reveals Philippe is the identical twin of Louis; on the night the twins were born, their father had Aramis take the younger baby away, because the king had known too much bloodshed among feuding royal heirs. Their mother, Queen Anne (Anne Parillaud), was told the younger son had died at birth. Later, when the King was on his death bed, he told Queen Anne and Louis of Philippe's existence. Louis, fearing that Philippe would try to take the throne, had Aramis lock Philippe in the iron mask. Although he looks the same as his cold-hearted brother, Philippe is kind, and he accepts the truth behind his past in addition to forgiving Aramis for locking him in the mask that imprisoned him for six years.

Meanwhile, Louis succeeds in seducing Christine. Louis tells her that he ordered Raoul to a place far away from the battlefront, but that his orders were disobeyed by the general. They eventually make love, but Christine later reveals that she was pretending to love him in order to get Louis' help for her mother and sister. Their lives are threatened from pneumonia.

Athos, Porthos and Aramis teach Philippe how to act like Louis so as to replace Louis with Philippe, and they attempt to abduct Louis and take him to the Bastille during a masked ball, replacing him with Philippe and putting him in Philippe's cell in the Bastille. They succeed at first, but Philippe'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 publicly calls him a lying murderer after having found out the truth about Raoul's death. D'Artagnan asks Philippe to escort him to the dungeons, and Philippe can not 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, Philippe is recaptured.

D'Artagnan brings Philippe to Louis, who reveals he had known of his brother's existence and believed he had died in the Bastille. Their mother and D'Artagnan beg for Philippe's life to be spared. However, Philippe begs to be killed instead of being sent back to prison. Louis orders D'Artagnan to hunt down Aramis, Athos, and Porthos, and bring him their heads or Louis would have D'Artagnan's head for "taking the side of traitors,". D'Artagnan chastises Louis for his actions against his brother Philippe and expresses his disappointment in the kind of king Louis has become. Louis orders Philippe to return to prison, where he will wear the mask "until he loves it and dies in it." That night, Christine hangs herself outside Louis' bedroom and leaves a note for her family.

D'Artagnan sends a message to Athos, Porthos, and Aramis that he will provide them with a 10-minute window to save Philippe. 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 Philippe. He arrives with Lt Andre (Edward Atterton) and the elite guard unit to trap Athos, Porthos, Aramis, D'Artagnan, and Philippe in the prison. Louis offers to let D'Artagnan retire in peace if he lays down his sword and gives up the rest of the group. D'Artagnan refuses to give up Philippe and reveals that he is the real father of Philippe and Louis, since he had a love affair with Queen Anne. The five then charge the other guard musketeers, who are ordered by Louis to shoot. All the guards deliberately miss and lay down their swords.

As Lt Andre and the other musketeers show their respects, Louis becomes angry, grabs a dagger, and attempts to stab Philippe but D'Artagnan jumps in the way and is fatally stabbed instead. Athos begs D'Artagnan to forgive him, realizing that D'Artagnan's loyalty to Louis was out of fatherly devotion to his son. Before dying, D'Artagnan reveals to the musketeers that the two are brothers. Lt Andre swears his men to silence and orders them out of the room and collaborates with the group to switch kings. After the switch, the remaining guards enter the room and Louis, now in prisoner clothes, is ordered by Philippe, now dressed as the king, to be put "where no one can hear his insanity" but is to be fed well by a deaf mute until "he finds redemption in wearing the pains he has placed on others". Athos, Porthos, and Aramis are named the Royal Council.

At D'Artagnan's grave Philippe asks Athos to be his father-figure. It is later revealed that Philippe becomes a good king known as Louis XIV and later pardons his brother Louis to live quietly in the country, where he is visited often by the queen.



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]