Queen, The (2006): What You Need to Know

Stephen Frears’ “The Queen” will play at the Toronto Film Festival and is slated as opening night of the prestigious New York Film Festival. The picture will be released in a platform pattern by Miramax September 30.

“The Queen” takes audiences behind the scenes of one of the most shocking public events of recent times, providing an illuminating, acidly funny, yet deeply affecting, dramatic glimpse into what happens in the corridors of power when tragedy strikes. The setting for this fictional account of real events is no less than the private chambers of the Royal Family and the British government in the wake of the sudden death of Princess Diana in August of 1997.

In the immediate aftermath of the Princesss passing, the tightly contained, tradition-bound world of the Queen of England (Helen Mirren) is abruptly brought into conflict with the slick modernity of the countrys brand new, image-conscious Prime Minister, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen). The result is an intimate, yet thematically epic, battle between private and public, responsibility and emotion, custom and action, as a grieving nation waits to see what its leaders will do.

With a screenplay drawn from extensive interviews, devoted research, discreet sources and informed imagination, as well as tour de force portrayals of living figures of power, “The Queen” provides a stunningly fresh portrait of one of the modern worlds last great monarchs as she has never been seen before, as a vulnerable human being in her darkest hour, amidst the unprecedented media madness, stark emotions and PR maneuvering set in motion by Dianas death.

The film reunites director Stephen Frears (“Dirty Pretty Things,” “Dangerous Liaisons”) with screenwriter Peter Morgan (“The Last King of Scotland”), after the two previously collaborated on a Channel 4 drama about the earlier history of Tony Blair, The Deal. The producers are Andy Harries, Christine Langan and Tracy Seaward; the executive producers are Francois Ivernel, Cameron McCracken and Scott Rudin.

The film stars Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Helen McCrory, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam and Sylvia Sims. Bringing to dramatic life the hidden world of the Royals is a team that includes cinematographer Affonso Beato, production designer Alan Macdonald, costume designer Consolata Boyle and editor Lucia Zucchetti.

In August of 1997, Princess Diana, arguably one of the most famous and idolized women, died in a disastrous car crash on the streets of Paris. The whole world was sent reeling into shock, the media went into a frenzy, and, in England, where total reserve and stiff upper lips once held sway, a remarkable sea change appeared to take place in the very fabric of society as the public came forth in unexpected displays of profound grief and emotion.

But the resounding impact of the tragedy was felt in an entirely different way in the corridors of power. Behind closed doors, an intensely private battle of wills erupted between the newly elected British government and the Royal Family over how to handle the incident. Diana was already a highly contentious figure. Following her separation from Prince Charles, the Princess had refused to sit quietly in the background and disappear from public life, causing anguish for the Royals.

In the wake of her passing, the Queen and her family did what they were used to doing in the midst of family tragedy they hunkered down in their own concealed world of ritual and protocol, hiding away at their Scottish retreat in Balmoral, only to be persuaded unwillingly into the public eye by the brash and powerful new Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Sequence of Important Events

July 29, 1981

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer are married in a fairytale wedding in London

August 28, 1996

After years of bitter acrimony and intense media coverage of their marital problems, Diana and Charles are officially divorced

May 1, 1997

Tony Blair, the leader of the New Labour Party, wins the election for Prime Minister by a landslide, ending 18 years of rule by Tories Margaret Thatcher and John Major

August 31, 1997

Princess Diana is killed in a car crash in Paris, along with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, after a high-speed chase by paparazzi

August 31, 1997

Tony Blair appears before a public crowd, calling Diana the peoples princess

September 2, 1997

British outpouring of grief builds to new heights as an endless sea of bouquets surrounds Dianas residence at Kensington Palace; meanwhile criticism of the silent Royal Family mounts

September 4, 1997

Five days after Dianas death, the Royal Family releases their first public statement

September 5, 1997

The Queen makes a live televised broadcast to the nation, calling Diana an exceptional and gifted human being

September 6, 1997

The nation comes to a halt as millions of people line the streets for Dianas public funeral