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The Lost Prince
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Production Notes [imagemap with 9 links]
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The Cast Comments

Miranda Richardson, on her role as Queen Mary

Gina McKee, on her role as Lalla

Michael Gambon, on his role as Edward VII

Bill Nighy, on his role as Stamfordham

Tom Hollander, on his role as King George V

Bibi Andersson, on her role as Queen Alexandra

John Sessions, on his role as Mr. Hansell

Frank Finlay, on his role as Asquith

Ron Cook, on his role as Lloyd George

Matthew Thomas, on his role as Prince John





Miranda Richardson, on her role as Queen Mary

When people hear I'm playing Mary, they say, 'wasn't she a dragon?' But I've learnt from my research that she wasn't just a crabby old bag. She may never have laughed in public, but that was because she was shy. She felt she wasn't able to express her emotions in public.

Mary had an absolute belief in the idea of duty. She thought that her husband's word was the law and believed in the divine right of kings. Although that view seems old-fashioned to us now, she thought it could not be questioned. Ultimately, I think this film understands Mary. It portrays her most sympathetically.

She loved Johnnie as fully as she could. She knew that he was a free spirit who was able to be himself. Mary could never be herself because she was always so serious, dedicated, dutiful and aware of her destiny.

In the end, Mary's relationship with Johnnie was constrained by the prevailing circumstances. At that time, doctors were viewed as gods, and when they said Johnnie had to be shut away, Mary felt she simply had to obey their orders.

Even though her relationship with all her children was distant and often conducted through the staff, she did make an effort to spend time with them, She set aside an hour each evening when she would gather them in her study and read to them. Later in life, she remembered those occasions very fondly.

The script shows how rapidly everything is being transformed, It allows you into Mary's thoughts and emphasizes how profoundly affected she is by the change in peoples attitude towards the Royal Family. She is shocked by the negative reaction to her when she visits a hospital during the war. She regards it as her duty, but people are not particularly happy to see her. She has to take on board the fact that the monarchy might not be as popular as it once was.

She also tries to hang on to the past by going round other peoples houses avariciously collecting things. She's obsessed with holding onto things as they are. I can sympathize with that. In the end, however, all this combined with the loss of Johnnie just brings home to Mary how much everything is changing.

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Gina McKee, on her role as Lalla

When Johnnie died, Queen Mary wrote that Lalla was inconsolable. Lalla lived into her nineties and she always kept a large photo of Johnnie. Her devotion to her job was absolutely selfless. She had no hidden agenda. She just wanted to care for Johnnie, particularly when he was put in isolation at Sandringham.

Lalla was an excellent servant and understood the etiquette of the time incredibly well. However, she was not afraid to challenge the status quo if she thought it would serve her ultimate goal, which was helping Johnnie. She was incredibly determined, very strong-willed and had a good sense of humor. All those elements of her character helped her to look after him. Why did she do what she did? The answer might be as simple as she just wanted him to be heard.

The way Johnnie communicated was by no means conventional, but Lalla knew that just because he behaved differently didn't mean he should be dismissed out of hand. It's as if she was saying, 'I can see what he can achieve and I know he'll make his mark; he's just not going to achieve it in a conventional fashion.'

I think Lalla used the Royal tutors teaching Johnny to educate herself as well. That links in with her fierce determination, always employed for the good of others.

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Michael Gambon, on his role as Edward VII

Although he has lived to excess and is starting to go off the rails now, the King is a fundamentally decent man and that shows particularly in his sympathy for Johnnie. He's one of the few people in the Royal household who understands the boy because he is childlike himself. Edward loves playing with toy soldiers and has much more in common with children than adults.

The key thing is that he treats Johnnie like a real person rather than an outcast. While others try to exclude the boy, the King makes a great effort to include him in family activities. I think their relationship is sweet.

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Bill Nighy, on his role as Stamfordham

I'd describe Stamfordham as an exemplary man. First recruited by Queen Victoria, he segued seamlessly into the role of personal Private Secretary to George V. In George's own words, 'he was the man who taught me to be King.'

He was an educated man in a way that George never was, He had access to lots of historical precedents which taught him everything about protocol. He knew exactly how to behave in the presence of every different class.

Stamfordham was able to protect George from too much contact with his not altogether supportive government. He could also translate the monarch's wishes into diplomatic terms and convey them to the Prime Minister. He proved a vital conduit between the King and the outside world. Everything went through him. He was unquestioningly loyal. You could call Stamfordham the ultimate professional.

There was a great deal in Poliakoff's screenplay that I didn't know... Lots of things surprised me -- like how the First World War actually started. I'm very interested in the accidental nature of history. We imagine that history is the result of careful planning, but often it turns on purely random events. This drama bears that out.

This is not a conventional period piece. It features the most significant events in our recent history, but that's not the point. Poliakoff has a talent for making a story authentic and universal. This resonates beyond the historical context, so that we as modern-day viewers can identify with the characters and understand our history better.

There are absolutely no clichés in this work. You'd expect a historical drama to be full of hackneyed ideas, but this is a really fresh view of the past. Poliakoff sees the world in a compassionate and unique way.

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Tom Hollander, on his role as King George V

Stephen (Poliakoff's) vision and insight are wonderful; George V has always been viewed by historians as a disciplinarian and an ogre, but Stephen has painted quite a different picture. He wrote George as someone who is limited, but good. In this, he is a domestic, almost suburban man who just happens to be King. George is depicted here as a person who feels that being King is an onerous task and that it is beyond him to play the role of the grand monarch. George is fighting feelings of great inferiority, and so he thinks he has to cling on to the concepts of discipline and order.

I played George as a gruff, Colonel Blimpy type, a typical Victorian father obsessed with the Navy, stamp-collecting and time-keeping, He is also wily when Europe's monarchies start crumbling, he realizes that he can not allow his cousin, Tsar Nicholas II, to come over from Russia and that the family should change their name from Saxe-Coburg to the more English-sounding 'Windsor.'

But I wanted to show that George is in fact quite vulnerable. So I portrayed someone whose wife is stronger than he is and who barks because he is actually very nervous.

This vulnerability is mirrored in George's uneasy relationship with his son, Prince John. He is a man hidebound by class and an inability to communicate with his kids. He is not unloving towards them, he's just clumsy. He tries to play with Johnnie on one occasion but inevitably it goes wrong. George wants to do the right thing by his son but doesn't know how. In those days, sadly, you dealt with that sort of thing by hiding the child away. King George and Queen Mary were not modern parents -- they hadn't read Dr Spock or Miriam Stoppard!

What's fascinating about The Lost Prince is the way you see that period through the filter of a child. Through young Johnnie's eyes, you get glimpses of the Edwardian period falling apart. In the end, I found the film very moving. You can't help but feel compassion for these people.

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Bibi Andersson, on her role as Queen Alexandra

This is a story that immediately caught my eye. More than a pure piece of British history (which I don't know much about), it is a marvelous human drama. It's such a touching tale about this young boy. At the time, the Royal Family tried to hide him away because they thought he was an idiot, but of course he was very far from that. He was the most wonderfully sensitive young man.

Queen Alexandra understands him better than anyone else in the family. They both are childish and that's why they have such a strong connection. He says out loud things that she would never dare say but she secretly applauds him for it. She has been frequently betrayed by her husband, but she refuses to let any misery show. She keeps a stiff upper lip because she doesn't want anyone to know that she is leading a humiliating life. To try to forget, she throws herself into collecting little agate animals.

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John Sessions, on his role as Mr. Hansell

Hansell is a pitiful figure. He's a very dull, Victorian man. He's a distinguished academic who finds himself being a tutor to this prince in a very strange setting. He is a Pooterish man. All he can do is disseminate information in the most unimaginative way. He is a standard-issue fact-server-upper. If the wee boy is thinking laterally -- like when he draws this amazing family tree -- it merely leaves Hansell with this Soames Forsyte-esque sense of bewilderment.

Of course, he's as much in jail as Johnnie. He's a teacher who is locked into this lonely world. He's a stickler who is imprisoned by his rigid mindset as much as being stuck in a far away cottage. I try to show that by putting a bit of pain in his eyes. In the end, Hansell runs away to fight in the First World War not so much out of patriotism as a means of escape. His only way out is the Western Front. That shows how hard his life as Johnnies teacher is.

The King and Queen and Hansell are all roped in and tied by convention, but Johnnie seems freer because he responds so spontaneously to life.

When I heard I'd got this part, it was like a bolt from the blue. I'd do anything to work with Stephen Poliakoff. It's just such a strong script. Martin Amis once wrote a work called The War Against Cliché and Stephen is fighting that war all the time. When describing his work, I find myself using phrases like 'poetic drama.' That may sound airy-fairy, but what it means is that Stephen has a stunning vision. His interpretation of this story is so acute. He comes at everything from an unusual emotional angle. The Lost Prince is not a reworking of Upstairs, Downstairs; you don't feel, 'Oh no, here we go again, another bland Victorian costume drama.' He stands out as a filmmaker because he's not looking for physical authenticity, but authenticity of behavior.

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Frank Finlay, on his role as Asquith

I thought the screenplay was a beautiful, wonderfully written story. It is very moving, but at the same time very educational. It's told from a sympathetic viewpoint. It shows that the Royal Family was a family with problems like anyone else. Viewers will be able to relate to that. He was a very intelligent man, born and bred in Yorkshire. His father was a wool merchant who died when Asquith was eight years old. The boy turned out to be extremely bright and won a scholarship to Oxford. He was a very successful lawyer before he became a politician. He was also very honorable. He turned down a lot of lucrative work as a QC in order to become Prime Minister. Even so, Asquith did not enjoy an entirely happy relationship with the Royal Family. He didn't approve of the way the King and Queen lived in a little cottage at Sandringham. All in all, he was an intriguing man, but we only get a glimpse of him here.

Stephen Poliakoff is more interested in the human story than the politics. The core of the story is the deeply affecting love between a nanny and a young boy.

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Ron Cook, on his role as Lloyd George

To be honest, I didn't know that much about Lloyd George beforehand, but as soon as I started reading the script, I found him fascinating. He was so dynamic; he had tremendous energy and extraordinary vision. He introduced the great budget of 1909 and was the founder of the Welfare State. He brought in pensions and National Insurance. He was a large character in every sense.

He was very ambitious; his main aim was to get on in his career and he'd sacrifice anything for that. He was very opportunistic, but the issues he pursued worked.

Lloyd George came into his own during the War. He was the Churchill of the First World War. Some people didn't trust him, but he was inspirational and had to bring in extraordinary measures to get the country through the war.

He hated the peacockism of the monarchy. He found George V a very dull person and thought the Royal Family very ordinary. He was famous for his attacks on the landed classes, and the Royal Family were very much afraid of him.

Lloyd George emerges very clearly here because we see him through the eyes of the young Prince. We see his famous philandering side, but also as a man of enormous power and energy who has a huge appetite for life. While others sink, Lloyd George is out there battling. I have great admiration for him.

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Matthew Thomas, on his role as Prince John

This is the biggest and most challenging role I've ever had the opportunity to play; Stephen (Poliakoff) was really clear as to how I should play Johnnie... The production arranged for various specialist doctors to come and show us videos and discuss epilepsy. I gained a sense of how intense and varied these convulsive attacks can be. In Johnnie's case, the fits get worse as he gets older -- until he tragically dies at 14, my own age now.

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