Madness Of King George, The (1994 with Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren)

UK / 1994

Writer: Alan Bennett / Director: Nicholas Hytner

Cast: Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm, Amanda Donohoe, Rupert Graves, Rupert Everett

Nicholas Hytner’s magnificent Oscar-winning film stars Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm, Amanda Donohoe, Rupert Graves and Rupert Everett. Alan Bennett adapted it from his play and Nigel Hawthorne recreates his stage role as the tormented King, following his triumphant portrayal at the National Theatre.

The film tells the tragic and sometimes comic story of George III, whose gradual descent into madness during his 18th-century reign causes a furore both in the royal household and Parliament. The year is 1788 and King George is surrounded by the flurry and turmoil of last-minute preparations for the State Opening of Parliament, accompanied by his loyal and devoted wife Queen Charlotte (Helen Mirren) and her Mistress of Robes, Lady Pembroke (Amanda Donohoe). Also participating in the event, albeit reluctantly, is his idle and foppish elder son, the Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett) and his younger brother, the Duke of York (Julian Rhind Tutt), together with a host of household staff, adept at displaying an imperious front to an unsuspecting nation.

Inside the walls of Windsor Castle, the King is suddenly taken ill, with an onset of bizarre and irrational behaviour. His condition worsens and the court doctors jostle to proclaim the diagnosis. London is gripped by a political power struggle and Prime Minister Pitt (Julian Wadham) tries to subdue an inflamed House of Commons with false assurances of the King’s good health. The Prince of Wales, one of the key players in the power struggle and the plot to declare the King unfit, even goes so far as to deny the Queen access to her husband, thus leaving the King at the mercy of his doctors.

Following an acting career spanning 45 years, Nigel Hawthorne justly received an Oscar nomination for his magnificent portrayal of George III. Prior to filming The Madness of King George, Hawthorne created the role of George III at the Royal National Theatre and Broadway. He received the 1992 Laurence Olivier Award and the London Drama Critics Award as well as many other accolades.

For her performance as Queen Charlotte, Helen Mirren was also nominated for an Oscar and the Guardian commented: “Helen proves once again that there are few actresses of her expressive power around.”