Richard III | The Film

In the turbulent 1930s, the Civil War ends with the assassination of the king.  The victorious King Edward has three children by his American-born wife, Queen Elizabeth.  The throne seems secure for generations to come.

Then enter King Edward's youngest brother, the charismatic commander-in-chief, Richard Gloucester. Richard is physically deformed a hunch-back, with a useless left arm and a limp.  As a fighting soldier, he has conquered his disabilities, through determination and good humour.  Now Richard turns his ambitions to civilian life, with disastrous results for his family and for the country.

Against all odds, Richard seduces and marries Lady Anne, whose husband he had killed in the Civil War.  Next, his secret aim is to become King.  He recruits two allies James Tyrell, who will obey any order to kill; and the greedy Duke of Buckingham, who agrees to help Richard's climb to power. Richard's elder brother, Clarence, stands before him in line to the throne and must be eliminated. Richard has the gentle Clarence imprisoned in the dreaded Tower, where Tyrell slits his throat. 

Richard's next victim is Earl Rivers, Queen Elizabeth's American brother, who has confidently flown across the Atlantic, intending to be a power behind the throne.  On the unexpected death of King Edward, Rivers becomes too powerful.  Tyrell is ordered to kill him. By rights, King Edward's heir, the under-age Prince of Wales, should now inherit the throne. Richard is pronounced Lord Protector of the Prince, who is locked up in the Tower, along with his young brother.

With the execution of the Prime Minister Hastings, a reign of terror begins.  Politicians, financiers and businessmen are persuaded to back Richard and he is crowned King Richard III. His ambitions are achieved yet the bloodbath continues. The young Princes in the Tower are murdered and so is Richard's wife, Lady Anne. An opposition party forms, headed by Henry Richmond, who is raising an army to invade.

A fighting soldier once more, Richard prepares to meet the enemy forces. But his luck is running out. His friends, including Buckingham, decide to support Richmond and so, even, does his mother, the Duchess of York.  Richard fails to persuade Queen Elizabeth that he should marry her young daughter; instead Princess Elizabeth is betrothed to Richmond. Overwhelmed by superior forces and by his bad conscience, King Richard III defiantly faces death on the battlefield.

Sir Ian McKellen, long recognized as Great Britain's foremost Shakespearean actor, triumphs in one of the theatre's richest and most challenging roles in this unique screen version of RICHARD III. In this compelling story of power and political intrigue, Richard is a charismatic malcontent who fights for the throne with a delicious mix of treachery, seduction and murder. However, this intriguing screen adaptation is offered with a distinctive twist. Taking the characters and action out of their original setting, the story has been re-imagined in a Europe of the 1930s. Richard speaks Shakespeare's famous lines, supported by media savvy, black-shirted thugs and heavy artillery.

Ian McKellen reprises his award-winning stage performance in the title role. The illustrious cast also features Academy Award nominee Annette Bening (American Beauty, The Grifters) as Queen Elizabeth; Academy Award nominee Robert Downey, Jr. (Chaplin, The Avengers, Sherlock Holmes) as her brother, Earl Rivers; Academy Award nominee Nigel Hawthorne (The Winslow Boy, The Madness of King George ) as Richard's tragically manipulated brother, Clarence; Academy Award winner Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) as Lady Anne, and two-time Academy Award winner Maggie Smith (California Suite, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, A Room With a View, Downton Abbey) as Richard's mother, the Duchess of York. The main cast also includes esteemed British actors Jim Broadbent (Topsy-Turvy, Iris, Cloud Atlas) as Richard's political ally Buckingham, Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) as Hastings and John Wood as King Edward.

Acclaimed English director Richard Loncraine helmed RICHARD III. Loncraine won a British Academy Award as Best Director for Blade on the Feather. His television film, Wide-Eyed and Legless, was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Drama and earned critical acclaim when it was released theatrically in the United States as The Wedding Gift.

The film is produced by Lisa Katselas Paré and Stephen Bayly, with Ellen Dinerman Little, Ian McKellen, Joe Simon and Maria Apodiacos serving as executive producers. David Lascelles is the line producer. McKellen and Loncraine collaborated on writing the screenplay, based on the stage production by Richard Eyre from the play by William Shakespeare.

RICHARD III is a United Artists presentation of a Bayly/Paré Production, with the participation of British Screen, developed in association with First Look Pictures.

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