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A female theatre dresser creates a stir and sparks a revolution in seventeenth century London theatre by playing Desedmona in Othello. But what will become of the male actor she once worked for and eventually replaced?

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3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Stage Manager
Mark Letheren ...
Male Emilia / Dickie
...
...
...
Thomas Betterton
...
George Villiers II - Duke of Buckingham
...
Jack Kempton ...
Call Boy
...
Miss Frayne
...
Lady Meresvale
...
Harry
Nick Barber ...
Nick
...
Thomas Cockerell
...
...
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Storyline

Based in the 1660's of London's theaters, this film is about the rules of gender roles in theatre production, and means to change them for everyone's benefit. Ned Kynaston is the assumedly gay cross-dressing actor who has been playing female parts in plays for years, particularly Desdemona in Othello, he also has a close relationship with a member of the Royal Court, the Duke of Buckingham. One day however, the rules of only men playing women could change when aspiring actress Maria auditions as Kynaston's praised role, Desdemona, and soon enough, King Charles II decides to make the law that all female roles should be played only by women. Maria becomes a star, while Ned finds himself out of work. But after a while, Ned finds it in his nature to forgive Maria's aspiration, they may even fall in love, and Charles may proclaim women will be played by either gender. Written by Jackson Booth-Millard

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Taglines:

She was the first of her kind. He was the last of his.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual content and language | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

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Language:

Release Date:

29 October 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Belleza prohibida  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£128,035 (UK) (3 September 2004)

Gross:

$776,691 (USA) (26 November 2004)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

|

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Inspired very loosely by true events, with many characters based on actual personalities from the seventeenth-century stage. Ned Kynaston did play female roles, but also played male roles before and after women were allowed on stage. He would have been 20 in 1660, when the first woman appeared on stage. Margaret Hughes (Maria) is supposed to have been the first woman to appear in a stage production, aged 30. She did appear as Desdemona in Othello, on December 8 at the theater on Vere Street operated by the King's Company, whose manager was Thomas Killigrew, not Thomas Betterton as the film shows. Betterton was a successful theater manager later, but was only 25 in 1660. Other characters also were not historically the age that they appear to be in the film - Nell Gwynn would have been 10. See more »

Goofs

When Kynaston refers to his stage performance and says, "I blame you for my death," he looks up at Maria, but in the next shot his head is back down. See more »

Quotes

Ned Kynaston: [discussing Maria's first Othello show] Did you go round after?
George Villiars, Duke of Buckingham: Oh, too crowded. Pepys went. If two mice were fucking in a nutshell, he'd find room to squeeze in and write it down.
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Connections

Referenced in The Daily Show: Billy Crudup (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

Good but succumbs to modern sentimentality
3 May 2005 | by (Illinois) – See all my reviews

I was very impressed by Billy Crudup's portrayal of Ned Kynaston, the last of the great English actors who specialized in Shakespeare's female heroines. The only other film I had seen this actor in was 'Big Fish' and that was a performance that, as it turns out, has grown in stature with each subsequent viewing. One of those quiet, difficult roles that Crudup does to perfection, as it turns out. He never over-plays or attempts to steal a scene. And in Big Fish his character is never meant to steal scenes... who could from Albert Finney! But in the hospital room Crudup manages to bash the viewer with quite an emotional wallop, showing a depth that had hitherto gone unappreciated. In 'Stage Beauty' Crudup never resorts to eye-fluttering she-male antics in order to convey his understanding, indeed internalization, of the eternally feminine principals that are so foreign to most men. He avoids what might have been high-camp in the hands of a lesser actor.

It is also remarkable how beautiful Crudup IS as a woman. He's not what I'd call a "beautiful" man, though he is very appealing, and his sexuality is muted, both as a gay man in his relationship with the Duke of Buckingham, wonderfully performed by Ben Chaplin (now THERE'S a sexy man!) and his burgeoning interest in Claire Danes' Maria. Though that last relationship never rings very true, nor does the director attempt to shove it down our throats as being really feasible for the homosexual Kynsaston to suddenly desire without qualm the lovely Maria.

Danes is quite good in the early scenes as the long-suffering hand-maiden to her male "star" (Crudup). It isn't her fault if the character becomes a tad maudlin in later scenes and a bit more annoying than endearing. She is stretched to the limit in the Desdemona/ Othello scene she plays with Crudup, the latter playing the Moor with uncanny ease, he must be quite a Shakespearean on stage! But Danes is not to be faulted in what is probably a misfire in the concept of this scene, developing as it does out of the stylized acting of Crudup's Desdemona and then leaping wildly into the Method school of acting for this last performance of Desdemona's death. A bit of an anachronism that spoils the film's ultimate impact, but not too much.

There is a wonderful performance of Charles II by Rupert Everett. He seems to specialize in royalty and always holds the eye effortlessly. Everett is getting better and better as he gets older. I look forward to the day when he's a cynical old actor like Ian McKellan who can do anything he pleases brilliantly.

I always enjoy Richard Griffiths who is here Lord Charles, an obese fop with a rapier wit, delivering some juicy and subtle quips to hilarious effect.

The setting is good, if a bit stagy. There is one shot of the old London Bridge with houses and shops built on it that is quite remarkable. The atmosphere of 17th century London is captured quite nicely, which can't have been an easy thing to do. Costumes and other technical credits are beyond reproach.

But somehow this isn't a "great" film, but a very good one and worth repeated viewings.

7 out of 10.


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'That new ending' hazeleyes422
So....do you think Ned loves Maria in the movie? instyleprincess
One liner that made me have a laughing fit rdswords
The breast is NOT the disturbing part! Mumiemonstret
Crudup is a knockout!!!!!Best Actor Nod for sure lrpulini
problem with the death scene rsh437
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