While David Michod’s The King owes a debt to Shakespeare’s Henry The IV [Parts 1 And 2] and Henry V, the film’s co-writer, co-star and producer Joel Edgerton says there’s only “a pinch” of the Bard on screen. “We really do our own thing with it.”
Michod, who directs, co-wrote the script with Edgerton and also produces, told a Venice Film Festival press conference today that the pair “worked out really early on we were going to drift away from the plays themselves. We deep-dived the research and then made a whole bunch of stuff up. I can’t remember what’s real, what’s made up and what’s from Shakespeare,” he laughed.
An epic and intimate portrait of young Prince Hal (Timothee Chalamet), who reluctantly ascends the throne to become Henry V at a particularly turbulent time in English history, the Netflix movie muses on power and how it is handled. Egerton, who plays John Falstaff, friend and advisor to Hal, said the idea was to “take a historical world to tell our own story that had a resonance.”
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For Chalamet, “the idea that at the time power was wielded by unusually young people felt new and unique to explore… Young people that come into power today by lineage — with virtue perhaps, but we don’t know — often wield it in scary ways.”
Robert Pattinson also features in The King, as the French Dauphin who makes quite an entrance. Michod worked with the actor (who’s not on the Lido today) on The Rover and “had a feeling he’d love to sink his teeth into this character and make it fun. He’s a supporting character who doesn’t appear until an hour into the film, so it’s very important that when he did appear it was with razzle-dazzle.”
The 1415 Battle Of Agincourt between England and France plays a significant role in the film, and was a down-and-dirty affair. Shot in 104 degree heat in the north of Hungary, the ambitious sequence took two weeks to film and employed “a couple hundred people and 70 horses,” per Edgerton who recalled thinking at the time, “I’m glad David’s directing this, not me.”
The actors were dressed in armor and had to battle it out, mud and all. Chalamet, who had not previously done stuntwork, called the experience “medieval.” Edgerton for his part, “thought one day I was going to drown in the mud.” Despite the hard work, Edgerton said he remembered “being happy partly because we were allowed to be there to realize this thing, then looking around at the scale of it and thinking of the beginnings of being a young actor or being a child and dreaming about doing these things.”
On The King, which is running out-of-competition in Venice, Michod reteams with a number of previous collaborators including Animal Kingdom’s Edgerton and Ben Mendelsohn. He told reporters today, “Making movies hurts so much, and when you’ve got people around you who are considerate of that you appreciate it.”
Netflix is giving The King an October 11 domestic theatrical release. It comes on streaming on November 1.
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