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The Queen is a 2006 Britishmarker-based drama film directed by Stephen Frears, written by Peter Morgan, and starring Helen Mirren as the title role, HM Queen Elizabeth II. Released almost a decade after the event, the film depicts a fictional account of the immediate events following the death of Diana, Princess of Walesmarker on 31 August 1997, itself coming 3 months after the coming to power of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's New Labour government.

The main plot focuses on the differing views in how to deal with the death of Diana. The Royal Family, while on their summer residence at Balmoral Castlemarker, sees her death as a private affair, not to be treated as an official Royal death, in contrast with newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair and Diana's ex-husband Prince Charles, who attempt to reflect the public wish 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 views of Diana's sons throughout the film are only portrayed through other characters.

In contrast to the period in question, the film was released in 2006, a time of somewhat revived fortunes of the monarchy and a downturn in fortunes for Tony Blair, with his resignation coming less than a year later. Actor Michael Sheen reprised his role as Blair from the Channel 4 television film The Deal, and will reprise again in The Special Relationship. The film earned critical and popular acclaim for Mirren, and some controversy as she had previously refused a CBE in 1996, only to accept a DBE in 2003. Mirren praised the Queen in her Oscars acceptance speech, and was invited to dinner at Buckingham Palace in May 2007, only declining to attend due to filming commitments in the United States.

Plot summary

The film begins on the eve of the 1997 British general election, which saw Tony Blair (Sheen) elected as the United Kingdom's first Labour Party Prime Minister in 18 years. While posing for an official portrait, the Queen (Mirren) talks with the artist and expresses her regret about not being allowed to vote. She is slightly wary of the new prime minister and his pledge to "modernise" the country, but Blair promises to respect the independence of the Royal Family. When Blair visits Buckingham Palacemarker to kiss hands, the Queen follows custom and asks him to form a Government in her name.

Three months later, during a visit to Parismarker, Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a car accidentmarker in the Pont de l'Almamarker tunnel along with her companion Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul. Blair's director of communications, Alastair Campbell (Mark Bazeley), immediately prepares a speech in which he describes her as "the people's princess." Blair gives the speech the next morning and the phrase catches on immediately. Over the next few days, millions of British people erupt in an outpouring of grief, as they flock to Buckinghammarker and Kensingtonmarker palaces to leave floral tributes and notes.

Meanwhile, the Royal Family were still on their summer residence at Balmoral Castlemarker, the Queen's estate in Aberdeenshiremarker, Scotlandmarker. Diana's death immediately sparks division among senior members of the family. The Queen observes that, since Diana divorced from her husband, Charles, Prince of Wales (Alex Jennings) a year earlier, she is no longer a member of the Royal Family. Consequently, she insists that the funeral arrangements are a "private affair" and are best left to the princess' own family, the Spencers. A visibly grief stricken Prince Charles, however, argues that the mother of a future King cannot be dismissed so lightly. Following her mother's suggestion, the Queen eventually sanctions the use of an aircraft of the Royal Flight to bring Diana's body back to Britain. Charles ensures that his ex-wife's coffin is draped with a Royal Standard instead of remaining a "wooden crate."

Meanwhile, in Londonmarker, the bouquets begin to pile up along the palace railings, forcing the changing of the guard to use another gate. Meanwhile, British tabloids become increasingly inflammatory about the lack of any statement by the Royal Family. Prince Charles, during a brief conversation with Blair and later through back-channel contacts, leaves no doubt that he shares the Prime Minister's views about the need for a more public expression of grief. As the Queen's ratings plummet, Blair's popularity rises sharply, to the delight of the Prime Minister's Anti-Monarchist advisers and his wife, Cherie (Helen McCrory).

Blair, however, does not share these sentiments. Despite not concurring with the Queen's course of action, he admires her and tells his wife that a Republican Britain is a ludicrous idea. Later on, he angrily denounces the anti-royal disdain of his Labour advisors and accuses Diana of having tried to destroy everything which the monarchy stands for. After days of building pressure, Blair calls the Queen at Balmoral and urgently recommends a course of action he believes is needed to retain (or regain) the public's confidence in the monarchy. These measures include attending a public funeral for Diana at Westminster Abbeymarker, flying a Union flag at half mast over Buckingham Palace (an unprecedented step in four centuries of royal protocol), and speaking to the nation about Diana's legacy in a live, televised address from the palace.

Blair's recommendations outrage Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (James Cromwell) and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (Sylvia Syms). Philip is also surprised that Elton John is asked to attend and sing a song, "Candle in the Wind" in Diana's honour. They view such steps as an undignified surrender to public hysteria, created by the tabloids, that will eventually calm down when the public comes to its senses. The Queen seems more concerned about this and although she shares their feelings, she begins to have doubts as she closely follows the news coverage. Speaking with her mother, the Queen muses that there has been some shift in public values, that perhaps she should step aside and hand over the monarchy to the next generation. Her mother dismisses these ideas, however, saying that she is one of the greatest assets the monarchy has ever had, adding, "The real problem will come when you leave." The Queen Mother also reminds her daughter of the promise she made in Cape Townmarker, South Africa, on April 21, 1947, 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 ..."

Later at Balmoral, Philip attempts to distract his grandsons from their mother's death by taking them deer stalking. While venturing out alone in her Land Rover, the Queen damages her vehicle while fording a river and has to call for assistance. While waiting, she weeps in frustration but then catches sight of the majestic Red Deer stag which her grandsons have been stalking. Hearing a distant gunshot, she shoos the animal away. Later that day, the Queen decides to carry out the recommendations of Blair. While preparing to return back to London, she is horrified to learn that the stag has been killed on a neighbouring estate, by a visiting stockbroker. She visits the estate where the stag is being dressed and expresses dismay at the amateurish way it was hunted.

In the film's climax, the Royal Family returned back to London and inspect the floral tributes. The Queen also goes on live television to speak about Diana's life and legacy, even going so far as calling her "an exceptional and gifted human being." Two months later, Blair comes to Buckingham Palace for a weekly meeting. The Queen has regained her popularity, but believes she will never quite fully recover from "that week." She cautions Blair that one day he too will find that public opinion can rapidly turn against him. She declares, however, that times have changed and that the monarchy must "modernise." When Blair suggests that he can help with this, The Queen responds, "Don't get ahead of yourself Prime Minister. Remember, I'm supposed to be the one advising you".

Cast

Actor/Actress Role Notes
Helen Mirren HM Queen Elizabeth II This film is the fourth time that Mirren has portrayed a British Queen: the first was a Queen Consort, Queen Charlotte in The Madness of King George (1994), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; the second was Queen Elizabeth I in the 2005 miniseries Elizabeth I. She also played a police woman undercover as the Queen in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.
Michael Sheen Prime Minister The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP Sheen had previously played Blair in the Channel 4 televison film The Deal, also directed by Frears and written by Morgan. He will reprise again in The Special Relationship.
James Cromwell HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
Helen McCrory Cherie Blair Tony Blair's wife
Alex Jennings HRH The 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 in actuality he was the Deputy Private Secretary at the time.
Sylvia Syms HM 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 to The Queen Mother
Jake Taylor Shantos HRH Prince William of Wales Diana's sons
Dash Barber HRH Prince Harry of Wales
Laurence Burg Diana, Princess of Wales Most of Diana's appearance in this film was shown in archive news footages. The actress playing Diana was only shown once: boarding a car outside of a hotel in Paris before the crash. Her face was not shown throughout the entire time.


Production

Filming

The screenplay was written by Peter Morgan and 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.The film was shot on location in the United Kingdommarker, in Englandmarker in Londonmarker, Halton Housemarker and Waddesdon Manormarker, in Buckinghamshire and inScotlandmarker at Balmoral Castlemarker and Castle Frasermarker in Aberdeenshiremarker and Blairquhan Castlemarker and Culzean Castlemarker in South Ayrshire.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. She regularly reviewed film and video footage of Elizabeth and kept photographs in her trailer during production. 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. 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.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.

Television viewership and DVD release

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. 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. As of 30 September 2007, The Queen has generated DVD sales of over $23 million.

Historical accuracy

Screenwriter Peter Morgan has stated that the film was not intended to be a historically accurate representation of the Queen's role. He says "As far as I am aware, I wrote about a cold, emotionally detached, haughty, difficult, prickly, private, uncommunicative, out-of-touch bigot. But people adore her [i.e. the character], because they think it was written with compassion and integrity rather than being a hatchet job." However, there was considerable effort to recount the story with a degree of accuracy. Morgan reconstructed the events of that week through extensive interviews with many unnamed sources close to the Prime Minister and the Royal Family. Many of these sources were able to corroborate the accounts of others, giving Morgan enough information to imagine the intervening scenes.

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. According to Morgan, "cabbage" is an actual term of endearment Philip uses for his wife (and «mon chou» - “my cabbage” - is a standard affectionnate nickname in French).

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 at 10 Downing Streetmarker is a reference to his support of that team.

The most notable inaccuracy is that Robin Janvrin is represented as the Queen's Private Secretary during the aftermath of Diana's death, but 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 only the Deputy Private Secretary up until 1999 when he took the position of Private Secretary to the Queen. However, the film is accurate in depicting Janvrin as the person who delivered the news of Diana's accident to Her Majesty at Balmoral during the night.

Reception

Box office

The film exceeded box-office expectations; with a budget of $15 million the film has earned $56.4 million in the United States and has a worldwide gross of $120 million.

Critical reaction

Before the film was released, critics praised both Stephen Frears and Peter Morgan, who later garnered Golden Globe and Academy Award-nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay. Michael Sheen's performance as Tony Blair earned him particular acclaim. But Helen Mirren's tour-de-force 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. 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. The Queen was the most critically acclaimed film of 2006 with Mirren being the most critically acclaimed actress of the year. The Queen has 96% positive reviews on the film-critics aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes.

Top ten lists

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



General top ten

Awards and nominations

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.
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

2006 Venice Film Festival

Soundtrack

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

  1. Helen Mirren declines CBE, The Times
  2. Helen Mirren at the Oscars, news.scotsman.com
  3. Mirren 'too busy' to meet Queen BBC News, 10 May 2007
  4. Gritten, David; 9 September 2006; 'I do look a bit like the Queen, you know'; The Daily Telegraph; retrieved 26 November 2006.
  5. Levy, Emanuel; The Queen according to Frears, emanuellevy.com; retrieved 26 November 2006
  6. The Queen DVD Commentary
  7. Movie The Queen - Box Office Data, News, Cast Information - The Numbers
  8. The man who rewrites history| Film | This is London
  9. Rayner, Gordon; 21 April 2006; That b**** Princess Anne; The Daily Mail; retrieved 26 November 2006.
  10. Junor, Penny (2005). The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-710215-1.
  11. The Queen :: Lee's Movie Info
  12. Marin Independent Journal - Dame Helen Mirren's appearance at Mill Valley Film Festival fit for 'The Queen'
  13. The Queen Movie - Official DVD Website
  14. The Queen - Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes


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