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Stage beauty - Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Rupert Everett, Richard Eyre

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

She was the first of her kind. He was the last of his.

Actor Edward "Ned" Kynaston (Billy Crudup) may well be the most desired man in all of London. The Restoration is in full swing, and enthusiastic audiences of aristocrats and commoners pack the theatres that were shuttered during the Puritans' joyless rule. With only men permitted to tread the boards, the greatest ardour is reserved for the actor who is the complete "female stage beauty" - and indisputably, Ned Kynaston is that actor. Lusted after by women and men alike, Ned commands all the perks of a star; at the same time, he is a dedicated actor who runs lines with his stage dresser Maria (Claire Danes), who quietly adores him. Every night, Ned's death scene as Desdemona in Othello stops the show.

But the winds of change are blowing - and they sound like the rustling of women's skirts. Ironically, it is Maria who ushers in a new era with her pseudonymous portrayal of Desdemona in an after-hours pub production of Othello. After years of men-as-women, Maria is a sensation, a novelty whose time has come. King Charles II (Rupert Everett), prodded by his saucy, stage-struck mistress Nell Gwynne (Zoe Tapper), not only overturns the ban on actresses but also prohibits men from playing female roles. Overnight, Ned's career is ruined as a host of fledgling actresses take on the parts that he once owned body and soul. Ned is headed for a has-been's twilight in tawdry attractions - that is, until Maria takes it upon herself to make an actor of him again. Finally, the masks fall away to reveal Ned and Maria's true feelings, but not before Ned undergoes a profound inner journey to discover his complete identity.

Persons of interest

  • Billy Crudup .... Edward "Ned" Kynaston
  • Claire Danes .... Maria
  • Derek Hutchinson .... Stage Manager
  • Mark Letheren .... Male Emilia/Dickie
  • Claire Danes .... Maria
  • Billy Crudup .... Ned Kynaston
  • Tom Wilkinson .... Betterton
  • Ben Chaplin .... George Villiars, Duke of Buckingham
  • Hugh Bonneville .... Samuel Pepys
  • Jack Kempton .... Call Boy
  • Alice Eve .... Miss Frayne
  • Fenella Woolgar .... Lady Meresvale
  • David Westhead .... Harry
  • Nick Barber .... Nick
  • Stephen Marcus .... Thomas Cockerell
  • Richard Griffiths .... Sir Charles Sedley
  • Zoe Tapper .... Nell Gwynn
  • Rupert Everett .... King Charles II
  • Edward Fox .... Sir Edward Hyde
  • Jeffrey Hatcher .... Playwright: Compleat female stage beauty
  • Jeffrey Hatcher .... Screenwriter
  • Richard Eyre .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Despite the historical inaccuracies (eg Ned and Maria didn't invent "naturalistic" acting as we millennialists understand it), Stage beauty is still a great look at the London theatre scene during the Restoration, with some drily hilarious moments from the King of Camp, Rupert Everett.

Billy Crudup is a theatre queen from hell. He possesses Edward Kynaston, bringing him to life on the stage and the streets. His life is a glorious form of torture, but like all protected industries, a signature on a piece of paper sends it all to the mouldy heap of history. His failure at performing as a man is wonderfully embarrassing, making his later success even more thrilling. The ultimate death scene from Othello is one of the most powerful I've seen on the screen.

Unfortunately, Claire Danes is a bland, wee thing who is completely over-shadowed by Billy Crudup. It doesn't help that her character is just a dresser (or that Billy gets the best dresses, and fills them out better than she does) but I never once believed that she wanted to be an actor. It was as if she was merely going through the motions (pun intended).

Stage beauty is a good comedic romance drama, but you have to be into The Theatre (or Billy Crudup) to really enjoy it.

Security censorship classification

M (Sexual references, low level violence, low level coarse language)

Surveillance time

110 minutes (1:50 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 25 November 2004
Disc: 1 September 2010

Cinema surveillance images

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