Nicholas Hytner’s much awarded 1994 drama, based on Alan Bennett's West End play. George III's erratic behaviour leads to a plot in Parliament to have him declared insane and removed from the throne.
The Madness of King George is set in 1788, when King George III (Nigel Hawthorne) has been on the British throne for almost 30 years, and his undoubted eccentricities have become more pronounced. His devoted wife (Helen Mirren) is naturally concerned about his health. His dissolute son the Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett) can hardly conceal his lust for the throne. Surrounded by incompetent and ill-informed doctors, the unfortunate King just goes from bad to worse.
The Madness of King George is the first film from stage director Nicholas Hytner, who directed Miss Saigon and the revival of Carousel on Broadway, and with Nigel Hawthorne triumphantly repeating his original theatre role as the King, you might expect a stagey version of Alan Bennett's very witty and intelligent play. But what you get is a fluid, lavish and exciting movie, full of humour and pathos, and with lots of irony too. Under Mad King George, the American colonies were lost, and this is a major subtext of the film. But Bennett also makes it clear that politicians in the 18th century were much the same as they are today.
The film abounds in wonderful performances, starting with Hawthorne himself, but also Mirren who the Best Actress prize at Cannes for her portrayal of his loyal Queen. There's also Ian Holm as a strict and powerful medical man, Amanda Donohoe as a lady in waiting to whom the King is attracted, and the Ruperts – Everett and Grave – in strong roles.
Visually sumptuous, energetic and classy, The Madness of King George is British film theatre at its most seductive.