Elizabeth I (2005– )
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But I daresay that Hollywood should turn green with envy at the production values shown here; everything from the sets to the most minute details of the costuming is top-notch. But where ELIZABETH I really excels is in its casting.
Helen Mirren, in my not so humble opinion, has been sorely deprived of the full measure of accolades she has been due for decades. When someone like Meryl Streep can't sing your praises enough, you have got to be beyond good and Helen most definitely is. Granted, actresses of such renown as Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson and Dame Judi Dench have all brought their unique interpretations to this role, and until now the best of the crop was Cate Blanchett, who showed us a younger and more winsome version of the woman who became known as the Virgin Queen.
But here, Williams' script brings out both the softness and the steel of the woman behind the throne, and Mirren throws herself into the role as if it were her last. Every color of mood is on display here, and I will be completely baffled if she doesn't win so many awards for this role that she'll need help to carry them all.
And matching wit for wit and word for word is another underestimated actor, Jeremy Irons as the Earl of Leichester. Irons has excelled always at anything he plays, be it vile villains or charming rakes, and in the Earl he has found a way to play the best of both worlds - a robust rapscallion not beneath dalliances with other women of the court, but whose heart truly does belong to the one woman who would always be his better, other half...but never his lover or his wife. The intricate dance of endearment and desire between him and Mirren is so wonderful and intense, it's hard to believe that this is their first time working together, and hopefully not the last.
And not enough can be said about the supporting cast, which includes Patrick Malahide as Sir Frances Walsingham (played by Geoffrey Rush in the Cate Blanchett version), Toby Jones as Robert Cecil, the plain-looking but cunningly resourceful son of Lord Burghley and his logical successor, and Ian McDiarmid as William Cecil, a.k.a. Lord Burghley, showing us that there is truly life after the Emperor Palpatine. These trusted advisers were both unerringly defending and covertly condescending of their queen, making damn sure that they did their jobs to the best of their ability, but always subtly reminding her with the arch of an eyebrow or the inflection of a phrase that no matter how regal, "Bess" is still a woman living in a man's world.
And for eye candy, the beautiful Hugh Dancy as the impetuous and headstrong Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex. One look at him and it's not difficult to understand why Elizabeth would become involved in an affair with a man half her age. And I say bravo for her good taste! It's to Dancy's credit that the Earl becomes much more than just another pretty face, but a man struggling to establish himself as such while in the grip of Bess's grasp of iron and velvet...a bond he both desires and rebels against, letting his exuberance, ambition, vanity and hot-headed pride ultimately become his undoing. He proves the point that everyone realizes even more so these days as the cult of celebrity holds sway over all: the beautiful people are always the most favored, but with the spoils comes a heavy price.
A word of caution, though: be advised that when it comes to depictions of violence that took place in this period, most other productions 'tastefully' avoided showing too much graphic detail. This version has no such pretensions. The realism of the depictions of the characters extends to the situations which very often warranted the bloody torture and deaths of others, and you will see it all depicted here in full strength, including the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots, which may leave you open-mouthed with its stunning savagery. (The drawing and quartering of Elizabeth's would-be assassins will stick with you as well).
If you are a fan of historical dramas or just really great acting, this is a definite must-see. With programs like CARNIVALE, ROME and DEADWOOD, HBO has long prided itself on presenting outstanding period pieces. It's good to know that the tradition continues, especially when network television continues to deliver such cheesefests as THE TEN COMMANDMENTS remake and call them "good."
This Elizabeth is set in her middle fifties, a woman still able to maintain her reputation as the Virgin Queen while settling into various assignations. Here Elizabeth is in love with Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (Hugh Dancy) while being prepped for a 'proper union' with France's royalty in the form of the Duke of Anjou (Jérémie Covillault). But her 'love life' is only a small yet refreshingly nuanced portion of the long story. Mirren is fortunate to be supported by such fine actors as Jeremy Irons, Patrick Malahide, Toby Jones, Barbara Flynn, Ian McDiarmid, Simon Woods, Diana Kent, and Toby Salaman among the many standout characters.
The visual aspects of the production are some of the more luxurious ever placed on celluloid, with attention to detail in costuming (Mike O'Neill) and sets (Galius Klicius and Leon McCarthy) that are stunning to see. The fine musical score is by Robert Lane and incorporates period music with works written for the piece that stand solidly as classical music compositions. Cinematographers Dmitrij Gribanov and Larry Smith find the right balance between court grandeur and boudoir intimacy. And of course kudos to Director Tom Hooper and writer Nigel Williams! But standing above them all is the brilliance of Helen Mirren's involvement as Elizabeth. She provides us with even more information about the enigmatic queen, allowing us to see both the lusty woman and the brilliant monarch simultaneously. The film is a joy! Highly Recommended.
I do not know how accurate this miniseries is with respect to all of the events that were happening at this time (circa 1589), but the characters were all portrayed in a totally believable and brilliant manner. The costumes were wonderful! Helen Mirren, I believe, gave the performance of a lifetime as the incredibly complex Queen, a daughter of Henry the VIII.
I think this is one of the most intense, brilliant, and wonderful miniseries produced. Sit back and prepared to be swept away to the 16th century. A most memorable miniseries! I rarely give a 10 out of 10 possible points but this miniseries truly is deserving!
Almost every quote we know from Elizabeth's reign (even the authentic ones) is in this admirable production. However, the film coquettishly cuts the most famous Elizabeth quote short: when Robert Cecil tells the dying queen that she must go to bed, Mirren only says: "Must?", and does not proceed to say: "Little man, 'must' is not a word to be used to princes". But the 'golden speech' is there, Elizabeth's most famous speech, marvelously punctuated by the Queen looking shrewdly at Cecil while the enthusiastic Parliament applauds, as if to say: "They bought it!"
When I browsed the cast (on IMDb, the moment I saw that the film was on), I was dismayed to find that Shakespeare was not in it, but the Bard is profusely quoted throughout the script (for instance "love is not love which alters when it alteration finds") and his beloved, long-haired patron, the Earl of Essex was truthfully revealed in his shameful betrayal of Essex when push came to shove at the trial. Even Catullus made a brief guest appearance in Latin ("Odi et amo")to set off Elizabeth's doomed love for Essex. But this will be quite enough of me exhibiting my classical education. Let it suffice that this series is an absolute must. I'll buy it as soon as it comes out for sale.
Notable support comes from Jeremy Irons, Hugh Dancy (as her later life "love interest" - the Earl of Essex), Ian McDiarmid and Patrick Malahide.
Part of the official blurb reads: "Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII, reunited a nation divided by religious strife, faced down the Spanish Armada and, after an unprecedented forty-five year reign, died one of England's best-loved monarchs. During her time as Queen, poets and playwrights wrote about her, artists painted her, composers dedicated their work to her, all contributing to the legend of GIoriana, the Virgin Queen.
But Elizabeth I looks beyond the myth, at the woman behind the crown. The woman subjected to a humiliating gynaecological examination when contemplating marrying a French prince, to ensure she was still able to have children. The woman who ran a country and yet who wasn't allowed to marry the man she loved. The woman who, in her mid-fifties, conducted a passionate affair with a man half her age, a man whose arrogance eventually led him to mount a desperate challenge for Elizabeth's throne. " Couldn't have put it better myself.
What a fantastic piece of work this is. There may be 240 minutes (the UK TV version was shown in 2*120 minutes) of it, but I wasn't bored by a single minute. Indeed I wish there had been more.
Helen Mirren might no longer be up to prancing around nude in semi-exploitation movies - so she has to turn to her acting talent. And boy what a role to get her teeth in to: One minute chamber flirt and the next a kind of Tony Soprano signing the death warrant of anyone who displeases - even if they once held special place in her heart.
I bet I am not the only one to notice the lead role is a bit like Margaret Thatcher!
A word of warning this is very bloody indeed. When someone has their head cut off the camera doesn't actually pan away. American HBO viewers look out for it in the listings or you will miss out on a treat.
The atmosphere and intensity of the life of Elizabeth I is portrayed in a gripping and beautiful manner in this TV film, mainly due to the perfect performance by Helen Mirren, I cannot think of a better person to play Elizabeth I, she really got into the queens skin and has gotten into my 'list' of the best actresses, she was fantastic!
Jeremy Irons and Hugh Dancy also gave a great performance, I think all the actors/actresses did!
Although it was a tad gory at times, that did not matter at all as it added to the whole atmosphere.
Anyone who says this wasn't good should be hung, drawn and quartered! A masterpiece, 10/10
The acting made you feel like you were watching a Hollywood movie making its premier on television, and by that i mean just as great as you would expect with both lead actors giving performances that made me feel like i was getting favours under my desk at work.
As an aspiring historian specialising in the Tudor and Elizabethan periods, I was interested to hear that a production starring Helen Mirren, Jeremy Irons and Hugh Dancy had been announced for Channel 4. Before it aired, I read that the historian Dr David Starkey had been on set and was much impressed. So I had high expectations when the first episode came on.
Surely it couldn't be any worse than the disappointing film 'Elizabeth' (1998 starring Cate Blanchett). For me, Glenda Jackson will always be Elizabeth - her performance in 'Elizabeth R' makes you want to believe in reincarnation.
Helen Mirren in this drama is also excellent. Her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in her later years lets you see the woman behind the monarch. Jeremy Irons was good as the Earl of Leicester, her lover. The relationship between the Queen and Leicester was explored lightly in this production - not nearly as much as it focuses on Elizabeth and Essex (Dancy). Dancy made an superb Earl of Essex - he seems to have grasped the character with ease (the attitude, the stamina, the ambition) and probably deserves more credit than anyone for his performance. Many other members of the Queen's council were depicted accurately and exceptionally well (William Cecil's son in particular is notable here).
Some of the historical inaccuracies were pretty annoying. I know all about dramatic effect etc, but a few of these liberties seemed pretty pointless. For example: (SPOILERS ALERT)
- The meeting between Elizabeth and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. (This never happened, their correspondence was in letters). I feel this scene lacked any real depth, and could've been so much more.
- Elizabeth being at Leicester's side when he died. Again, didn't happen. However, this scene was rather strong and you are made to feel sympathy for the Queen - who is losing the man whom she (perhaps) really trusts in a world full of treason and conspiracy.
I also feel that they 'sexed up' the relationship between Elizabeth and Essex a bit in the second episode - just a bit, mind. The chemistry between these two was still portrayed very well, and I was very impressed (especially with Elizabeth's sudden change from being adoring to ruthless).
Talking of ruthlessness, the Tudor court is represented with a harsh realism of a sort. The executions (which aren't for people of a weak constitution, I might add), the arrests (noteably of the Queen's doctor), etc are very well put across and really make you think about how it was during the Elizabethan era.
What I really admire about this drama is the costumes! They are stunning, and very accurate for the time (unlike ITV's awful 'Henry VIII'). Simply lovely to look at.
I am very impressed with Channel 4's researchers on this series - they were obviously knowledgeable and any errors made were not too terrible, and simply for dramatic effect.
I thought that all the good costume dramas came from the BBC, but they better watch out, C4 is hard upon their heels... ;)
Helen Mirren is awesome as Elizabeth I ; furthermore , Jeremy Irons is notable as Earl of Leicester and Hugh Dancy is equally outstanding as arrogant and ambitious count of Essex . Special mention for actors form the reign council members , as Patrick Malahide , Toby Jones and Ian McDiarmid . Wonderful colorful cinematography adds to the atmosphere but it does help to know some history in order to keep the interesting plot . Director Tom Hooper (John Adams) takes a brilliant look at the turbulent life of famous Queen of England from her troublesome days and machinations surrounding her reign .
Other renditions about this known Queen are the followings : ¨Elizabeth¨ (1998) with Cate Blanchet , Joseph Fiennes , directed by Shekar Kapur ; ¨Elizabeth R¨ directed by Herbert Wise (72 ,TV) with Bette Davis; ¨Elizabeth the Queen¨ (68,TV) with Judith Anderson and Charlton Heston ; and classic version, ¨The Queen Virgin¨ by George Sidney with Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger and ¨The private lives of Elizabeth and Essex¨ by Michael Curtiz with Bette Davis and Errol Flynn , among others.
But here's the problem. Whoever wrote this didn't do more than cursory historical research. To whit: According to everything I've ever read, and everything my fellow 16th century history buffs have read, Elizabeth NEVER met with either Mary of Scotland OR James Stuart. Sorry to bring this up. Of course there is a neat escape clause in the script "No one must ever hear of this." OK, fine, whatever. I guess if you use those words you could claim almost anything could happen clandestinely, but I digress. The costumes are, for the most part, some designer's idea of what Elizabethan costume SHOULD be, rather than what it really was. Couldn't they spring for a copy of Patterns of Fashion or Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd? Barring that, would it have been too much trouble to look up some portraits on the internet? I have seen much more accurate representations of Elizabeth's clothing at my local Renaissance Faire! Add to this, Elizabeth is never seen to age, she goes into and out of the gaudy white makeup on a whim, and the fashions never change over the course of the whole film. I find that bothersome. Along with the excessive gore of the execution scenes (where you see a Mary Stuart's beheading and the ax stops halfway in her neck, and they start again! Yes her execution was botched. OK, they got that right.) The deaths of the conspirators who wanted to assassinate Elizabeth was also pretty accurate, but I thought the sight of guts being slowly reeled out of a victim was in very poor taste. It would appear that the writers were more interested in sensationalism than telling a good story.
The real problem is the writing. Most of the cast members are extremely accomplished. However, there is only so much you can do with acting skill. The writing was poor, in my opinion, and Elizabeth comes off more as a prudish mattress monkey flaunting her affairs everywhere than the shrewd politician and educated woman she was. Even her words "I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king!" was practically spoon-fed to her by the Earl of Leicester.
About all I can say in favor of this film is that it might get someone interested in 16th century history. Then, once you find out the real story (which is a lot more intriguing and less saccharine), toss it in the trash and go on to bigger and better miniseries, such as the venerable BBC production of "Elizabeth R."
Ms. Mirren adequately captures the mood of Henry V111's daughter, who never married and therefore has no heir to rule after her. She can show lust one moment and a vile temper the next.
She seemed to love younger men, both of whom predeceased her. In the second case, she had the Earl of Essex put to death for his treachery. There is plenty of the latter in this HBO film.
Mirren bears a strong physical resemblance to the current Queen Elizabeth, and this is a definite asset to her engaging performance. Too bad that Jeremy Irons in senselessly wasted as the ill-fated duke. On his death bed, he encourages his stepson to take good care of the monarch. He sure does as the two engage in a passionate love affair before treachery intervenes.
The chopping off of the heads of Mary Queen of Scots and the Earl are both disgusting as best. This should have been done at a distance. To see the heads fall off is not for the squeamish.
For a woman who starved herself for 3 weeks, Mirren is able to walk around and does that to her deathbed.
You have never seen the Spanish Armada defeated so quickly as depicted in this film. Say a prayer for Dr. Lopez, Mirren's loyal physician, who is accused of treason and goes to the gallows for it. By the next scene, he is vindicated.
When she is not giving to hopping along, Mirren, as Elizabeth, is a woman driven by power and subject to intense rages. All the men in her life are in affairs with children produced. Nonetheless, she will not let spinsterhood consume her. She shows her adeptness at ruling and dealing with the Council.
Elizabeth I never, ever, ever met Mary, Queen of Scots. Never. There wasn't even a rumour or a whisper that either of them met when they were living, after they died, or in the countless books written about them since.
It is one thing to take a historical rumour (such a romance that could have very well happened) and add it to a movie, but it quite another blunder to take a well known historical inaccuracy and put it in one's movie. It takes away any credibility the rest of one's movie might have had.
I was so disgusted that I turned the TV off and wrote a email to HBO, which I'm sure they will ignore.
For the love of G-d and all things holy, do some RESEARCH before making a movie! Look into the psychology of Elizabeth I! It took her 20 years to sign Mary Stuart's death warrant. She was so emotionally scarred from her father's frequent beheadings of those who displeased him (including her very own mother and stepmothers), not to mention the fact that she wanted a united England and walked on eggshells try and keep the peace between Catholics and Protestants. It's inconceivable that she would have been able to see Mary Queen of Scots and sign the death warrant when she had such a hard time doing so without ever meeting her, despite the fact this woman was trying to kill her and usurp her throne.
I'm a loyal HBO watcher and I've never had a problem with anything they've made until now.
Mirren's "Bess" is a good one basically. She does swing well into the part, playing Elizabeth as a lusty CEO. Through 80% of the film this characterization works. But, when her character is emphatic in her darker emotions, Mirren is really over-the-top overwrought. And it reminds me of Mel Blanc, doing such things in the guise of many characters he voiced in Warner Brothers cartoons. I am actually embarrassed for her.
Some of the blame for this poor acting must be shared with the script writers. There is an old axiom in screen writing that you can not just have the actors stand about and shout out their emotions. I am angry! I am anguished by your betrayal! You have to have clever dialogue to weave the fabric of the story for the audience.
Elizabeth l commits the sin of having Mirren, and others, shout out their feelings. And it happens many times throughout the series.
There is also the small matter( to some) of the very large liberties taken by the film with historical fact. They are numerous and at times completely at odds with the woman and her times.
Elizabeth l is designed to be smutty, emphasizing Bess' odd, conflicting libido. I doubt that she and Leicester, or Essex, ever petted each other in public, let alone at a mass ceremony for the people.
The Earl Of Leicester died at his house in Oxfordshire. Bess was no where close. and certainly not in bed with him. Essex, a shallow man, was no great fan of his step father, and was not there at his deathbed either.
There are more and they pollute the truly fascinating story of one of history's most remarkable monarchs
The story has been retold over and over, the reign of the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I. Good Queen Bess. This production brings a freshness and humanity to this long(4 hour) tale, but every minute counts and I, for one, sighed when it was over, I wanted more.
The costumes are incredible, the historical detail superb and Helen brings a humanity to the part that at times is heartbreaking. One understands the turmoil inside, she has not managed to secure a suitable husband or bear a child to inherit the throne.
The script brings this humanity to the surface but also the strength of the monarch beneath. A monarch who won every battle, every contest. I could only envision Helen doing the script justice.
Jeremy Irons as the Earl of Leichester plays well against her superb talent, bringing the devotion of years of service and love of her to the surface. A love that can never be legalized as he is considered unsuitable for her hand in marriage.
The sensuous nature of this love is palpable as he and Mirren interact and weave their intimacies (and none of her relationships were ever consummated) into an intensity that is enthralling.
The supporting cast are brilliant, hard to single any one out but it includes Patrick Malahide as Sir Frances Walsingham, Toby Jones (one of my personal favourites - he nails his roles) as Robert Cecil, who works his way to the forefront of the Queen's life even though she refers to him scathingly as "Pygmy", and Ian McDiarmid as William Cecil, a.k.a. Lord Burghley, father of Robert.
The delicious Hugh Dancy plays Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex. Two sided, self-serving and ingratiating. But lovely. Elizabeth falls hard and sometimes publicly.
She is no fool though, with any one of her courtiers. "Off with their heads" is a frequent occurrence and the result is quite graphic and not for young eyes, or older ones, I had to avert my head several times and wondered how on earth the graphic disemboweling, beheading and quartering was done.
The beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots, is particularly gruesome from what I saw through my fingers.
Not to be missed for fans of historical, epic costume dramas. 9 out of 10. Bravo to all.
Does it deserve all its awards? Emphatically, no. It lacks inspiration. It lacks a distinctive vision. But most of all, it lacks a rigorous script. Helen Mirren is just fine. Does she deserve the plethora of acting awards she's already won for this performance? Definitely not. There were at least two finer, more nuanced, more interesting performances in long-form television this year (Gillian Anderson, Annette Bening).
If you want to see the most amazing portrait of Elizabeth Rex available, rent the BBC Glenda Jackson version. Poor production values and what now seems like sub-par technical contributions do not diminish from its excellence.
Mirren and Irons are outstanding actors and would do well here, were it not for the shallowness of the script. It gave me no sense of character development, no intrigue, no sense of space. The first half hour or so all Robert Dudley says is she cannot marry the Duke of Anjou and the other characters mutter something to the effect that she must marry. It wasn't even there historically.
The costuming was beautifully done and Helen Mirren deported herself well as the queen. Still, it gave me no sense of Queen Elizabeth's power or her struggle to maintain that power, and little feeling for the length she'd been in power though it did mention many time that she was old. The dance scene when D'Anjou was behind the screen was characterless. Again, Leicester is just about the only other person there that acted..the others might just as well have been cardboard cutouts for all they added to the scene.
I'll take Henry VIII with Keith Michell or A Man for All Seasons with Paul Scofield any day.
This movie grips you from the start and does not let go for the entire film. I am a die-hard fan of Jeremy Irons and find him intriguing as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Hugh Dancy was surprising clever as Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.
The entire cast was well chosen and Tom Hooper did a marvelous job directing Nigel William's screenplay. Excellent film and I recommend it highly.
I was completely blown away by this film. Helen Mirren is a REVELATION in it. You completely feel as though she is a woman torn by duty to her country vs. a life full of love and normalcy. The script is historically accurate and worthy of Shakespeare.
It should have been released in the theatres so that Ms. Mirred could collect the Oscar that she deserves!!!
If you can erase the memories of so many excellent actresses who preceded Helen Mirren, this is a very enjoyable two-part TV drama (advertised as mini-series, whatever) filmed in sensational locations built in Lithuania (Tudor court looks amazingly real - not glamorous but practical, decorated but still a labyrinth of crowded halls where people watch every step you make). To be honest, all the other memories fade away when I'm watching this - everything from the script, dialogs, costumes to acting in superb. First part has Elizabeth constantly fighting off marriage proposals and juggling one country for another, trusting only her chief advisers and her old favorite Earl of Leicester Jeremy Irons). "What is crown, when love's voice speaks to us?" she sighs when alone with Leicester, who is the only courtier brave enough to tell her things she don't want to hear.The second part has already aging queen falling for Leicester's stepson (Hugh Dancy) but she is no fool - the toy boy is only good as long as he plays her game, as soon as he steps out of line, the head goes off, she is true daughter of Henry VIII after all. This is hardly the only head chopped off here, there are many quite brutal scenes including historically accurate beheading of Mary Stewart. To all who criticize fictive meeting between Elizabeth and Mary Stewart, I would just say - this is too good scene to be missed. And the fact we have no surviving documents about it, don't mean it didn't happen.
As always Mirren is magnetic - firm, stubborn, playful, coquettish, sentimental and cruel, she has it all. It is quite an achievement to make Elizabeth a believable, human person under all those elaborate costumes and wigs, but great actress she is, Mirren dominates the scene and she wears the clothes, not the other way around. Those closest to her are all excellent, including Jeremy Irons, Hugh Dancy, Toby Jones, Patrick Malahide and Ian McDiarmid - even Barbara Flynn as unlucky Mary Stewart completely fits to a description what she must have been like. Absorbing and absolutely recommended.
That said, this Elizabeth pic is distinctive in having one of the better-motivated portraits of Essex, so much so that Essex seems to eclipse Leicester in Elizabeth's life (historically questionable, but put to dramatic good use here). Apart from script and Mirren, probably the credit for that goes to the really commendable performance by Dancy especially as the young Essex (though he sort of loses me toward his pre-decap days). Toby Jones also gives a great performance as the younger Cecil, though the portrait is far more sympathetic (milking the modern sensibility/sensitivity to handicap) than the historical Robert Cecil deserves. And needless to say, MIRREN's Elizabeth - spunk with irony and threats. The only weak performance to my mind, surprisingly, was Irons' - completely fulsome, not well-suited to play Dudley the suitor, should have been more the Dudley the ambitious.