"Griffith was stellar as the lecherous Sir Charles Sedley. Chaplin was good as the Duke of Buckingham. A jolly good show. Crudup and Danes display a palpable chemistry."
"Don't miss this fascinating bit of theater history."
"Vibrant, thrilling, colorful and somewhat campy."
"Skillfully acted, handsomely crafted frock piece toys cleverly with gender confusion and sexual identity."
David Rooney VARIETY
"Bags of fun to watch." Ella Taylor LA WEEKLY "This is a celebration of the theater, a big, wet kiss to the craft of acting and the artists who inhabited London's early stages."
"A rich, shining valentine to the British theater and the eternal joys of Shakespeare."
Michael Wilmington CHICAGO TRIBUNE
"The story's good, the sets of Old London are terrific and memories of Andrew Dunn's cinematography will linger. The outstanding acting, though, that's the thing."
"An intelligent and witty experience thatís thematically rich and often downright funny."
"The story is essentially a drama, but a literate, witty and sexy drama at that."
At A Glance
"For Crudup, this is a career-topping, Oscar-worthy performance that goes beyond the novelty of simply dressing in women's clothes." John Monaghan DETROIT FREE PRESS
Filmed over eight weeks at the Shepperton Studios and London locations under the directorship of Sir Richard Eyre who helmed the film "Iris", "Stage Beauty" takes its audience back to a time when men were women and only men could appear on stage as women. Even though there is a little licence in the film, there is a sense of 'being there' thanks to locations such as "the streets of 17th century London which were constructed on the grounds of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, using Jim Clayís production design to incorporate the collegeís buildings in a unique synthesis of real and imagined architecture. Locations included historic landmarks such as Hatfield House and Hampton Court Palace." Two theatres take pride of place in the film but they were built Shepperton Studios and both serve it well. There are "Two Restoration theatres. The grand Betterton and the popular Cockpit." Part of the allure of "Stage Beauty" is that it depicts an era from which much history stems, including the theatre. King Charles II had returned to England and assumed the throne. There's little doubt that his time in exile in France led him to the theatre where women were already on the stage. Once he returned to his homeland he issued a decree which would lift and eighteen year old ban on women playing women on the stage. It is recorded that King Charles II "quickly gave the royal seal of approval to two London theatre companies and within months, actors who had formerly been obliged to practice their trade in secret under penalty of arrest, were once again playing to full houses." It was during this period of early restoration that "the actor, Edward Kynaston, famous for his exceptional beauty and his ability to personify the heroines of the English stage" made his mark. Elizabeth Howe reveals in her book "The First English Actresses" that "Restoration audiences were accustomed to enjoying a drama on two levels for much of the time; that is, they enjoyed the spectacle of the characters and their adventures in the play, but they were also particularly strongly conscious of the personalities of the players behind the fiction." One such personality was acclaimed actor Edward Kynaston a cross dressing bi-sexual who would have made his mark even today. "The good thing about Ned Kynaston,Ē says screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher, "Is that thereís just enough information on him to make it tantalising but not so much as to take away all the mystery." So how did Hatcher come across Kynaston? He says "chancing upon a volume of Pepysí Diaries in a second-hand bookshop sparked his interest in the now little-known, 17th century star. Iíd only ever read excerpts from Pepys, but I found this pretty volume and I bought it. I started buzzing through the index and because itís my profession, the first thing I looked up was Ďtheatreí. Thatís how I bumped into the name Edward Kynaston. Pepys referred to him as the prettiest woman in the whole house." Hatcher kept searching for more on Kynaston and found some remarkable information on the actor. Kynaston it seems was a bit of a toy boy indulging in homosexual relationships. He would later be beaten up "by the lover of the first English stage actress." Finally Hatcher discovered Kynaston had married and that the union produced offspring. What was his reaction to all this? "I thought, Somebody really has to write a play about this and if Stoppard hasnít done it yet, Iíd better hurry up," he recalls. Producer Hardy Justice knew they needeed a director with the right background.
That director was Sir Richard Eyre. Justice also knew that this "was a story that, at the end of the day, would live or die by its performances and there was no doubt that Richard was a director who could craft a well-honed film and attract an amazing cast." And what a grand cast they attracted. Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Tom Wilkinson, Rupert Everett, Edward Fox, Ben Chaplin, the delightful Zoe Tapper and a totally wicked Richard Griffiths as the outrageous Sir Charles Sedley. "Stage Beauty" is very camp, bawdy, but always entertaining. Hugh Bonneville who worked with Eyre on the film "Iris" describes the film as "a period piece with a gender-bender agenda." Edward Fox who appears as the puritanical King's council Sir Edward Hyde says, "This is a nice slant on an old, old theme: men and women." Readers should not be taken aback by some of the themes in "Stage Beauty" for none are offensive." Eyre's describes Ned's journey as one about seeking identity. "For Ned, who he is professionally and what he is sexually are absolutely, inextricably bound together." Eyre said. "One of the things I liked about the script is that it doesnít say itís good, bad or indifferent to be gay, straight or bisexual. Itís simply what you are. But it helps to know who you are." Producer Hardy Justice believes "The story also explores gender issues; what it is to be a man, what it is to be a woman. Itís kind of sexy stuff and very relevant," he notes, "given the gender politics of the last thirty years. How do people behave in a relationship now? What are the roles? Itís not about wearing a dress, itís how you feel on the inside thatís important." While the script was a good one, the most crucial to the success of "Stage Beauty" was being able to find and attract the right actor to the lead role of Edwatd Kynaston. All agreed there were limited choices, albiet they were all good actors. "There are really only three guys on the planet that I could have pictured as Kynaston and Billy Crudup is one of them," screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher revealed. Sir Richard Eyre had two simple criteria. They needed an actor who would naturally look pretty and one who had experience with Shakespeare. Eyre also realized that there "arenít many British actors who fit the first qualification who have as much experience as Billy Crudup does playing Shakespeare. Heís a very experienced stage and film actor. We only discussed three or four names and he was certainly at the top of my list." Hatcher agrees with Eyre, "Youíre not going to fool anybody, itís not going to be like "The Crying Game" where everybody says ďWow! Thatís a man!?!" But you have to believe that, in that period, he would be accepted as a woman. Of course once youíve found a pretty enough actor whoís not too tall, then heís got to be a good actor. Itís hard to find the necessary qualities in one actor and if Billy had said no, I donít know if we would have been able to make the picture at all.". They certainly made the right choice because Billy Crudup makes a very convincing Kynaston and producing a divine performance in the lead role. One must though 'give credit where credits due", because the support cast including co-star Claire Danes all do a great job. Finally, to that question of authenticity. How true is "Stage Beauty" to the period. The answer is simple. In the main it is very faithful. With one exception as the star, Billy Crudup reveals. "It is a bit of a cheat in the story and itís one of the things Richard and I talked about early on, the idea that Ned and Maria invent naturalism/realism in the 17th century when that didnít actually happen until the 1940s." I don't think too many will really give a damn about a little licence because there is so much to fill the mind in this highly entertaining period piece with wide appeal.
Crew Bytes
"Stage Beauty" was .......
directed by Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics Circle Best Director Award winner Sir Richard Eyre
["The Ploughmanís Lunch", "Loose Connections", "Laughterhouse" and "Iris"]; screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher [ writer of the award winning plays "Three Viewings", "Scotland Road", "Comfort and Joy" and "Neddy"]; original story by Jeffrey Hatcher ["Compleat Female Stage Beauty"]; costume design by Three time Olivier Award winner; Tony and Drama Desk Award winner Tim Hatley ["Private Lives", "Humble Boy", "Stanley", "Goodnight Children Everywhere" and "Suddenly Last Summer"]; production design by Jim Clay ["The Trench", "Copycat", "Circle Of Friends" and "The Crying Game"]; edited by BAFTA Award winner Tariq Anwar ["Tea with Mussolini", "The Object of My Affection", "American Beauty" and "Sylvia"]; director of photograhpy THREE time BAFTA Award winner Andrew Dunn B.S.C ["Gosford Park", "Sweet Home Alabama", "The Count of Monte Cristo" and TV's "Tumbledown"]; original music by EMMY and BAFTA TV Award winner; FOUR time Academy Award nominee and FIVE time BAFTA Award nominee George Fenton ["The Fisher King", "Dangerous Liaisons", "Cry Freedom", "Gandhi" and TV's "Blue Planet"] produced by Robert De Niro ["Faithful", "Wag the Dog", "Meet The Parents" and "About a Boy"], Hardy Justice ["About A Boy"] and Jane Rosenthal ["Wag the Dog", "Meet The Parents", "About a Boy" and "Analyze That"].
Casting About
"Stage Beauty" stars .......
Billy Crudup
["Sleepers", "Charlotte Gray", "Almost Famous" and "Big Fish"]; Claire Danes ["The Rainmaker", "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines", "Igby Goes Down" and "The Hours"]; Rupert Everett ["The Importance of Being Earnest", "An Ideal Husband", "Shakespeare in Love" and "The Madness of King George"]; Tom Wilkinson ["Rush Hour", "The Patriot", "The Full Monty" and "In the Bedroom"]; Ben Chaplin ["The Truth About Cats and Dogs", "The Thin Red Line", "Washington Square" and "Birthday Girl"]; Hugh Bonneville ["Asylum", "Piccadilly Jim" and "Iris"]; Edward Fox ["The Bounty", "Gandhi", "The Day Of The Jackal", "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "Nicholas Nickleby"]; Zoe Tapper ["Stage Beauty"] and Richard Griffiths ["Chariots of Fire", "Harry Potter I & II", "Naked Gun 2", "Gorky Park" and TV's "Pie In THe Sky"] as Sir Charles Sedley.
The Story
"Crudup is astounding as a man playing a woman who is forced to become a man once again, but insists he can only play a man when heís portraying a woman portraying that man." ... Larry Carroll FILMSTEW.COM
Ned Kynaston is a highly acclaimed actor who had won the hearts of theatre fans through his defining roles playing women on the stage. In 17th century England, only men can appear on the stage. They play all the roles. Adored by both men and women Kynaston's career looks to be a long and glorious one. Until his dresser Maria, using the stage name of Mrs Margaret Hughes appears in an unathorized performance of "Othello" at Killigrewís Cockpit Tavern playing Kynaston's latest sensation, Desdemona. Ned is taken aback when he later discovers the truth while at the King's Court. The King's mistress, Nell Gwyn, intervenes and convinces Charles that it would be novel, surprising, to have women playing women. When King Charles II makes the decree official, Ned Kynaston finds himself out of work. It's a pity, because such a fine actor would truly play male roles just as well as he does women's. Ned doesn't want that. He wants to play women.
The Verdict
"So many admirable performances the least of which that of the films star Billy Crudup as the embattled, bewildered and wonderfully lost male actor who only plays women's roles. It's sexy, witty, cutting and highly entertaining. Excellent support cast includes Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin, Tom Wilkinson, Rupert Everett, Zoe Tapper and the King's pride and joy, a clutch of scene stealing King Charles Spaniel's. Most enjoyable."
The Cast
Billy Crudup
Claire Danes
Tom Wilkinson
Ben Chaplin
Rupert Everett
Zoe Tapper
Edward Fox
Richard Griffiths
Fenella Woolgar
Isabella Calthorpe
Derek Hutchinson
Mark Letheren
Hugh Bonneville
Jack Kempton
Alice Eve
David Westhead
Nick Barber
Stephen Marcus
Robin Dunn
Tom Hollander
Hermione Gulliford
Clare Higgins
Madeleine Worrall
Nancy Chandler
Ned Kynaston
George Villiers [Duke of Buckingham]
King Charles II
Nell Gwyn
Sir Edward Hyde
Sir Charles Sedley
Lady Meresvale
Lady Jane Bellamy
Stage Manager
Male Emilia/Dickie
Samuel Pepys
Call Boy
Miss Frayne
Thomas Cockerell
Sir Peter Lely
Mrs Barry
Mistress Revels
Female Emilia
Angelina Hooker
The Crew
Directed by Sir Richard Eyre
Adapted from the play Compleat Female Stage Beauty by Jeffrey Hatcher
Screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher
Produced by Robert De Niro/Hardy Justice/Jane Rosenthal
Executive Produced by Richard Eyre/Michael Kuhn/Amir Jacob Malin/James D Stern
Original Music by George Fenton
Cinematography by Andrew Dunn
Film Editing by Tariq Anwar
Casting by Celestia Fox
Production Design by Jim Clay
Art Direction by Keith Slote & Jan Spoczynski
Set Decoration by Caroline Smith
Costume Design by Tim Hatley
Run Time 110 minutes
Rated M15+ [AUST]
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