British theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Frears|
|Written by||Peter Morgan|
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Edited by||Lucia Zucchetti|
|Distributed by||Pathé Distribution|
|Budget||£9.8 million ($15 million)|
|Box office||£77.9 million ($123.4 million)|
The Queen is a 2006 British fictional drama film depicting the British royal family's response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on 31 August 1997. The film was directed by Stephen Frears, written by Peter Morgan, and starred Helen Mirren in the title role of Queen Elizabeth II.
Initially, the Queen and Prince Philip regard 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 Prince Charles, Diana's ex-husband, 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. Michael Sheen reprised his role as Tony Blair from The Deal, and he did so again in The Special Relationship. The Queen also garnered general critical and popular acclaim for Mirren in the title role, which earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actress. Mirren was praised by the Queen herself and was invited to dinner at Buckingham Palace (though she could not attend due to filming commitments in Hollywood).
The 1997 general election has Tony Blair elected as the prime minister from the Labour Party on a manifesto of reform and modernisation. Less than four months later, Diana, Princess of Wales is killed in a car crash at the Alma Bridge tunnel in Paris.
Immediately, her death presents problems for her ex-husband, Prince Charles, and Blair, to accord the mother of a future king that is no longer a member of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II wonders if Blair will turn his modernisation pledge on to the royal family since he attempts to have her reconsider her views on the funeral plans. Diana's family, the Spencers, called for the funeral to be private.
In the press, Diana is dubbed the "People's Princess"; this begins an outpouring of grief by the general public in broadcasts, and displays of floral tributes so numerous at Buckingham and Kensington Palaces that the main entrances onto the complexes have to be rerouted. The senior members of the royal family make no effort to acknowledge Diana's significance to society and remain on holiday at Balmoral. The royal family's popularity plummets, while Blair's approval rises as he responds to the public outcry of inaction by the royal family.
Blair's attempts to guide the royal family through the controversy are met with resistance, the Queen describing them as a surrender to public hysteria. He is encouraged by the private secretaries of the prince of Wales and the Queen, albeit through veiled advice, to continue with his attempts to change the attitude of the royal family. The Queen comes to realise that the world has changed during her reign, and Blair begins to understand that Diana had rejected everything the Queen still holds most dear.
The Queen decides to end discussion about the issue. The royal family returns to London to review the floral tributes to Diana. The Queen pays public tribute on live television to Diana's significance to the nation and society. The royal family attend the public funeral for Diana at Westminster Abbey.
At Blair's next meeting with the Queen, they exchange views about what has happened since their last meeting including the controversy surrounding Diana's death and the actions that are followed. Then she cautions the prime minister that, just as public opinion has changed about how the royal family should react to a new Britain, so must he as he may very well find himself in the same position of changing public opinion.
The screenplay was written by Peter Morgan. 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. 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,Castle Fraser and Cluny Castle 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.
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.
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 and, as of 2013 , US DVD sales had exceeded $29 million.
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 and push for a republic. 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).
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.
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.
The film's screenwriter Peter Morgan adapted his script for the stage, under a new title, The Audience, with Helen Mirren continuing her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II. The play opened in London and then transferred to the Broadway stage, where Mirren won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.
The film exceeded box-office expectations; with a budget of $15 million the film earned $56.4 million in the United States and Canada.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97%, based on 191 reviews, and an average rating of 8.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Full of wit, humor, and pathos, Stephen Frears' moving portrait looks at life of the British royals during the period after Princess Diana's death." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 91 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
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, which garnered her acclaim from critics around the world, made her a favourite for the Academy Award for Best Actress well before the film was released in cinemas. 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, in which he called it "spellbinding" and gave it four out of four stars.
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'".
The film appeared on many US critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2006.
General top ten
Mirren won several awards for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, many of which are listed below. She was nominated for at least three 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 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
2006 National Society of Film Critics Awards
2006 Satellite Awards
2006 Venice Film Festival
|Studio album by|
|Released||26 September 2006|
|Alexandre Desplat chronology|
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).