Busy Scribe Morgan the ‘King’ of ‘Queen’

THE ONE PERSON involved in the making of movies and plays who never gets enough credit is usually the writer. So let’s examine Peter Morgan, the brain behind “The Queen.” His is an eloquently drawn, insightful portrayal of the Windsors. … Morgan has also written a powerful insider’s look at Idi Amin’s evolution from being the hero of Uganda to the villain of Africa, “The Last King of Scotland.” He now has a screenplay being filmed in London — is a treatment of the vivid Philippa Gregory novel, “The Other Boleyn Girl.” Shooting began last week and Sony, Focus and the BBC are all onboard. Playing the young and sexy Henry VIII is Eric Bana while Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman portray the sisters, Mary and Anne.

IN AUGUST, Frank Langella opened at London’s Donmar Warehouse in Morgan’s play “Frost/Nixon.” Langella is now the toast of London though some say they are stunned by his all-American grandeur. The other night he was feted by Elizabeth Harris in a dinner party that boasted both Antonia Fraser and Harold Pinter. (Just to add some celebrity buzz, the hostess has been, in her time, married to the late actors Richard Harris and Rex Harrison and is now wed to Jonathan Aitken, the controversial former MP who was convicted and jailed for perjury in 1999.)

CONDOLENCES to Candice Bergen whose mother died Monday at L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai. Frances Bergen was surely one of the most beautiful and charming women ever to grace Hollywood. A model who wed the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, she could have been a big film star herself. … Here’s an anecdote: One day a pal phoned Frances from a flea market in Gotham and told her there was a small wind-up Charlie McCarthy doll on sale. Frances began asking which way was the hair combed, what was Charlie wearing, which way his eyes faced? Then she said she didn’t have that one and asked her friend to buy it, saying, “Well, you know he was one of my children for many years — a mother never forgets.”

CHARLIE ROSE had his hands full the other night when he interviewed “The Queen” director Stephen Frears and its star, actress Helen Mirren. There was a kind of tense frisson between Frears and Mirren, full of humor, but with a clear indication that the director and his leading lady had some opposing ideas on the character of Queen Elizabeth II, of Princess Diana, and on gossip and speculation. At one point, when Charlie wasn’t getting quite what he wanted from Mirren, Frears said, “Well, now you see what I had to deal with! She’s going to be impossible the rest of the day.” Big laughs, but I thought I saw beads of sweat on Charlie’s brow. … When Charlie asked Frears why he chose Mirren for the role of the British monarch, after some hesitation he said, “Well, she’s just like the Queen, isn’t she?” Mirren howled, “I’m nothing like the Queen, I’m a common girl from Chiswick!” … The Lincoln Center Film Festival’s big kickoff Friday night dragged on so long that when I came home, exhausted, at 11 p.m., some stalwarts were just walking on to Tavern on the Green for the supper after it all. High spots of the night were the kick-off movie, “The Queen,” and getting to dine with Mirren and her handsome husband Taylor Hackford, plus a few other worthies. I’ll cite screenwriter Morgan, Miramax’s Daniel Battsek, producer Scott Rudin, director Stephen Frears, and Broadway’s John Breglio.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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