The Lion In Winter It's Christmas in the court of King Henry II (Peter O'Toole). The King of France (Timothy Dalton) is visiting and wants his sister, Henry's mistress (Jane Merrow), to marry one of Henry's sons.
The three sons, Richard (Anthony Hopkins), Geoffrey (John Castle) and John (Nigel Terry) come to see who will be the king's heir and who will marry Alais. For the sake of appearances, Henry releases his wife (Katharine Hepburn), whom he has kept imprisoned for 10 years.
The Lion In Winter is a film made stunning by the performances of Hepburn and O'Toole. They both thrive on James Goldman's tight script. Hepburn deservedly won her third Oscar for her portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine. She conveys superbly the strength and vulnerability that made this woman such an inspiring historical figure.
O'Toole gives the performance of his career. His Henry II is an immense character, whose scheming intelligence is forever burning behind his eyes. Pure brilliance.
Anthony Harvey's direction allows the emphasis to fall upon the performances, the sets, the script, without feeling the need to stamp his mark across the production. This is a truly great film that you simply must see.
THE LION IN WINTER View a short clip from this film.
One of the best Christmases I recall was when we were making ‘The Lion in Winter’. The film takes place during a few days over Christmas as a dysfunctional family, so we were well in the mood. We the actors, became like a family and unlike our characters in the story got on frighteningly well – sometimes a recipe for disaster, in terms of producing a really successful film.
We only had a few days off for the real Christmas, which went by almost unnoticed. We were filming in Ireland and some of us went back to England. Peter O’Toole stayed behind as did Katharine Hepburn, who spent it with her old friend John Huston, who had a house in the West of Ireland.
When we all reported back to Dublin after Christmas, I was summoned to Katharine’s rented house for tea, where I was to collect my Christmas present. I am happy to say, that she and I got on very well, after I had got over my initial paralyzing awe of her.
She told me she had bought me a rather nice cup and saucer, but that she liked it so much, that she would like to keep it and give me a pair of earrings she had received, which she would never wear.
Although Phyllis, her trusted assistant, ‘tut tutted’ in slight disapproval, I was delighted to do as she suggested (I am an earring freak) and her frankness and honesty were qualitiesI loved about Kate and this was typical. So there was satisfaction all round.
This was a wonderful film to work on and my character as Alais, Henry's mistress, earned me a Golden Globe nomination.