name = Wilde
caption = Italian poster
Marc Samuelson Peter Samuelson
Based on a book by
Stephen Fry Jude Law Jennifer Ehle Michael Sheen
cinematography = Martin Fuhrer
editing = Michael Bradsell
Sony Pictures Classics
released = October 15, 1997
October 17, 1997 UK
January 15, 1998
May 1, 1998 USA
October 7, 1998
runtime = 118 minutes
language = English
budget = $10,000,000 (estimated)
gross = $2,158,775 (US)
website = http://www.oscarwilde.com/
amg_id = 1:158631
imdb_id = 0120514
"Wilde" is a 1997 British
biographical filmdirected by Brian Gilbertwith Stephen Fryin the titular role. The screenplayby Julian Mitchellis based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1989 biographyof Oscar Wildeby Richard Ellmann.
The film opens with Oscar Wilde's 1882 visit to
Leadville, Coloradoduring his lecture tour of the United States. Despite his flamboyant personality and urbane wit, he proves to be a success with the local silver miners as he regales them with tales of Renaissancesilversmith Benvenuto Cellini.
Wilde returns to London and weds
Constance Lloyd, and they have two sons in quick succession. While the second child is still an infant, the Wildes are playing host to young Canadian Robbie Ross, and the houseguest seduces Oscar and helps him come to terms with his homosexuality. On the opening night of his play " Lady Windermere's Fan", Oscar is re-introduced to the dashingly handsome and openly foppish poet Lord Alfred Douglas, whom he had met briefly the year before, and the two fall into a passionate and tempestuous relationship. Hedonistic Alfred is not content to remain monogamous and frequently engages in sexual activity with rent boys while his older lover plays the role of voyeur. Alfred's father, the Marquess of Queensbury, objects to his son's relationship with Oscar.
The elder Douglas eventually baits Oscar by publicly demeaning him shortly after the opening of "
The Importance of Being Earnest", and when Oscar makes a complaint of criminal libel against him, his sexual preference is exposed and he is arrested and tried for gross indecency. He opts to fight the charge rather than flee the country. Eventually sentenced to two years' hard labour, he is visited in prison by his wife, who tells him she is leaving him and taking their sons abroad to live under assumed names. Oscar is released from prison and the film ends with his attempt to reconcile with Lord Alfred.
Throughout the film, portions of the well-loved Wilde story "The Selfish Giant" are woven in, first by Wilde telling the story to his children, then as narrator, finishing the story as the film ends with the unhappy end of his life.
In a featurette on the film's
DVDrelease, producer Marc Samuelsonconfesses casting Stephen Fryin the title role was both a blessing and a problem. Everyone agreed he was physically perfect for the part and more than capable of carrying it off, but the fact he wasn't a major presence in films made it difficult for them to obtain financing for the project.
In the DVD commentary, Fry, who is openly
gay, admits he was nervous about the love scenes with his heterosexual co-stars. He says Jude Law, Michael Sheenand Ioan Gruffuddwere quick to put him at ease.
Scenes were filmed at
Knebworth Housein Hertfordshire; Lulworth Cove, Studland Bay, and Swanage Pierin Dorset; Houghton Lodgein Hampshire; Luton Hooin Bedfordshire; Magdalen Collegein Oxford; Lincoln's Innin Holbornand Somerset Housein The Strand.
The film premiered at the 1997
Venice Film Festivaland was the opening night selection at the 1998 San Francisco International Film Festival. Orlando Bloommade his first on screen appearance in this film with a brief role as a rent boy.
Stephen Fry..... Oscar Wilde
Jude Law..... Lord Alfred Douglas
*Tom Wilkinson ..... The Marquess of Queensbury
Jennifer Ehle..... Constance Lloyd Wilde
Michael Sheen..... Robbie Ross
Vanessa Redgrave..... Lady Speranza Wilde
Zoë Wanamaker..... Ada Leverson
Gemma Jones..... Lady Queensberry
In her review in the "
New York Times", Janet Maslincalled the film "a broad but effectively intimate portrait" and added, "Playing the large dandyish writer with obvious gusto, Stephen Fry looks uncannily like Wilde and presents an edgy mixture of superciliousness and vulnerability. Though the film suffers a case of quip-lash thanks to its tireless Wildean witticisms . . . Fry's warmly sympathetic performance finds the gentleness beneath the wit." [ [http://www.nytimes.com/library/film/050198wilde-film-review.html "New York Times" review] ] Roger Ebertof the " Chicago Sun-Times" said the film "has the good fortune to star Stephen Fry, a British author, actor and comedian who looks a lot like Wilde and has many of the same attributes: He is very tall, he is somewhat plump, he is gay, he is funny and he makes his conversation into an art. That he is also a fine actor is important, because the film requires him to show many conflicting aspects of Wilde's life . . . [He] brings a depth and gentleness to the role." [ [http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19980612/REVIEWS/806120305/1023 "Chicago Sun-Times" review] ]
In the "
Los Angeles Times", Kevin Thomas stated the film "has found a perfect Oscar in the formidably talented Stephen Fry . . . Coupled with Julian Mitchell's superb script . . . and director Brian Gilbert's total commitment to it and to his sterling cast, this deeply moving "Wilde" is likely to remain the definitive screen treatment of Oscar Wilde for years to come . . . Gilbert clearly gave Fry and Law the confidence to play roles that would require a baring of souls, and they are triumphant. . . Unfortunately, the film is marred by Debbie Wiseman's trite, overly emotional score, which has the effect of needlessly underlining every point along the way that has otherwise been made so subtly. It is especially undermining in its morose tone in the film's final sequences, when the pace naturally slows down as Wilde's life enters its final phase. Everyone else involved in the making of "Wilde" has done an exemplary job illuminating a man and his era." [ [http://www.oscarwilde.com/review3.html "Los Angeles Times" review] ] Mick LaSalleof the " San Francisco Chronicle" called it "a sympathetic and, for the most part, nicely realized look into the private life of the flamboyant author" and commented, "Stephen Fry has the title role, and it's hard to imagine a more appropriate actor . . . In the last third, the film derails somewhat by turning preachy . . . While [it] captures its subject's singular charm, it ultimately doesn't do justice to his complexity." [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1998/05/08/DD73070.DTL "San Francisco Chronicle" review] ]
In the "
San Francisco Examiner", David Armstrong said the film "benefits from its lush period costumes and settings but gains even more from an accomplished cast of British film and stage actors . . . Stephen Fry . . . slips right under the skin of the title character [and] presents a multidimensional portrait of a complex man . . . However, "Wilde", like Wilde, is flawed. Gilbert's direction is sturdy but uninspired, and Ehle's part is underwritten. To her credit, Ehle movingly conveys the sad frustration that Wilde implanted in his lonely wife; but Ehle has to do the work, playing her feelings on her face, with little help from Julian Mitchell's screenplay." [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/e/a/1998/05/08/WEEKEND16370.dtl "San Francisco Examiner" review] ]
Derek Elley of "Variety" observed, "Brian Gilbert, till now only a journeyman director, brings to the picture most of the qualities that were memorably absent in his previous costumer, "
Tom & Viv" - visual fluency, deep-seated emotion and first rate playing from his cast." [ [http://www.oscarwilde.com/review1.html "Variety" review] ]
In the "
Evening Standard", Alexander Walker called the film "an impressive and touching work of intelligence, compassion and tragic stature" and said Stephen Fry "returns to the top of the class with a dominating screen performance." [ [http://www.oscarwilde.com/review2.html "Evening Standard" review] ]
Awards and nominations
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama(Stephen Fry, nominee)
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role(Jennifer Ehle and Zoë Wanamaker, nominees)
*Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer (Jude Law, nominee)
*Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Technical/Artistic Achievement (Maria Djurkovic, nominee)
*Chlotrudis Award for Best Actor (Fry, nominee)
*GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film (nominee)
Satellite Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama(Fry, nominee)
Seattle International Film FestivalGolden Space Needle Award for Best Actor (Fry, winner)
*Ivor Novello Award for Best Score (Debbie Wiseman, winner)
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