By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com May 6, 2011 at 1:40AM
Olivia Colman To Play Queen Elizabeth
Depressingly for those of us in the U.K. who would like to throw off the yoke of our apparently-appointed-by-god inbred oppressors, royalty is big business at the moment. Between the enormous, Oscar-winning success of "The King's Speech," and the royal wedding last week, the Windsors are back, and there's more than one film project in the works at present. For instance, Dakota Fanning is attached to play the young Princess Margaret in the romantic-comedy "Girl's Night Out," although that won't move forward until after director Michael Hoffman is done with "Gambit."
And George VI and his wife Elizabeth (played by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter in "The King's Speech") are heading back to the big-screen for the Roger Michell-helmed drama "Hyde Park On Hudson," which will examine the, ahem, "close friendship" between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his distant cousin Margaret Suckley, against the background of King George's visit to New York, the first time a British monarch had ever set foot on American soil. Yesterday, Variety confirmed that, as rumored, Bill Murray would be playing the president, something that, typical for the actor, has taken over a year of courtship, and now we've got some news of who will likely be joining him.
Baz Bamigboye reports that Laura Linney is in the advanced stages of talks to play Margaret in the project, while British actors Samuel West and Olivia Colman are stepping into their compatriots' awards-laden shoes as King George and Queen Elizabeth. Linney is, of course, bloody marvellous, and seems to be an excellent fit for the part.
Their British counterparts are less familiar to U.S. audiences, but they're equally well-matched. West is a theater veteran, son of legendary British actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales, who's probably most familiar abroad for small roles in "Van Helsing" and "Iris." He's worked with Michell a number of times before, both on screen ("Notting Hill," "Persuasion"), and on stage, in an excellent 2007 production of Harold Pinter's "Betrayal," and he's been more prominent in recent years, thanks to the lead role in the hit play "Enron," as well as becoming a leading opponent to the current British government's program of cuts.
Meanwhile, Colman's also on the rise. A veteran of TV comedies like "Peep Show" and "Green Wing," she had a scene-stealing role in "Hot Fuzz," but she's taken a big step towards big-screen dramatic work this year, with a widely acclaimed lead performance in Paddy Considine's Sundance hit "Tyrannosaur" opposite Peter Mullan, and she's just wrapped up a role as Margaret Thatcher's daughter Carol in the Meryl Streep-toplining biopic "The Iron Lady." We're sure her role and West's will be far less prominent than in "The King's Speech," but they're certainly two performers who won't be afraid of being overshadowed by that film.
All in all, things are looking very promising here -- director Michell sometimes gets lumped in with the likes of John Madden and Mike Newell, but for the most part his films are terrific, particularly his low-key British pictures like "The Mother" and "Venus." He's assembled quite a cast for the project, and, although it's a while off, we'd put money on the 2013 Best Actor race being a presidential face-off between the long-overdue Murray and Daniel Day-Lewis in Spielberg's "Lincoln." Film4 and Focus are backing the project, which will be shopped at Cannes next week, with filming planned to get underway in July.