Four years after playing England’s King Henry II in Becket (1964)—for which he earned an Oscar nomination— Peter O’Toole returned to the role for this tale of royal intrigue. A lot can change in four years, however. Where Becket was a lush studio production with pristine sets that only hinted at medieval life, THE LION IN WINTER created a more realistic view of the 12th century. At Anthony Harvey’s direction, the sets looked filthy and were dressed with barnyard animals rather than pseudoantiques. He asked the actors to wear their costumes before the cameras rolled so they’d look more lived in. However, the script shot in this ultrarealistic setting was decidedly modern, with ironic historical references and some of the screen’s cattiest dialogue. Katharine Hepburn gave up thoughts of retirement after Spencer Tracy’s death for the chance to work with O’Toole, and won an Oscar as a result. She and O’Toole set the pace for one of the screen’s best young casts, including Timothy Dalton and Nigel Terry in their film debuts and Anthony Hopkins in his first major movie role. THE LION IN WINTER was restored by the Academy Film Archive and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Dir. Anthony Harvey
In attendance: Michael Pogorzelski