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Feature: Primetime

The Lion in Winter

Estranged Queen and King

James Goldman’s Academy Award-winning screenplay, based on his own Broadway play, is now a television mini-series.

In 1969, James Goldman won an Academy Award for his screenplay for The Lion in Winter, which starred Peter O’Toole as King Henry II, and Katharine Hepburn as his estranged wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, whom he had imprisoned for conspiring against him during a political coup. Goldman’s acclaimed work is now being revisited in a mini-series with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close. Set in 1183, Henry II has assembled his family, including Queen Eleanor, for the Christmas holiday, when he will choose his successor. It is at this gathering that both he and Eleanor discover that below the surface of their continual bickering, and cutting remarks, there is still a love and admiration that they share for each other.

Not intimidated by the fact that Hepburn won an Oscar for her performance in the film, Close admits, “You do revisit classic plays over and over – great material deserves to be revisited for generations that might not know it. It was daunting to step into a role that was so wonderfully played by Katharine Hepburn, and yet I really believe in the chemistry that we all had together, and I think there are aspects of this production that actually reveal the material in a way that didn’t happen in the original movie.

Stewart concurs, acknowledging that Goldman’s script is, “a mixture of the highly naturalistic and the very stylized and poetic. It’s within the tension of those two elements that great drama is created. And clearly, we tried to present the most believable scenario that we could but, at the same time, you’re dealing with epic figures and an epic landscape, and the play reflects that scale and size.”

by Judy Sloane

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Photo © Showtime
Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone #177
Summer 2004
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