How the actors in “The Crown” were inspired to play Prince Philip


At a dinner of unknown date, a “famous man of the cinema” found himself at a dinner organized by the Queen of England. In the end, he sat next to Prince Philip, who decided to talk. “How are you? Are you involved in this crown thing …?”

The answer was negative, recalls Matt Smith – the British actor who played the Duke of Edinburgh for the first two seasons of The Crown – who retold the story of The Guardian.

Even so, the mysterious guest couldn’t resist the curiosity and asked Philip a question before dinner was over: “I thought about it because I have some friends who were involved in ‘The Crown’. Have you seen an episode “The answer was short, thick, and in the usual refined upper-class British English.” Don’t be ridiculous. “

Philip died this Friday, April 9th, at the age of 99. As one of the most fascinating and entertaining characters in the Royal House, he quickly became one of the most complex characters in the series, which has been trying to trace the path of the British monarch since 2016. Philip is of course a standout personality, although he always shows himself on a secondary level.

Prone to gaffes and comments that go against normal protocol and royal decency, it has become a challenge for the actors who interpreted it and will also interpret it in the seasons yet to be broadcast. Matt Smith was the first. Tobias Menzies followed in his footsteps and Jonathan Pryce is the man who follows.

For four years, Smith and Menzies stole the mannerisms, the tics, but more difficultly, they tried to pick up the personality that Philip never revealed. They tried to repeat the tension of the alpha male trapped in the queen’s shadow, or even the complex relationship with Diana.

The discreet gesture Matt Smith stole from the Duke

“I think he’s a cool guy,” Smith said in 2017, asking about the controversial personality of the monarch he played in season one. “He did what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted, with whoever he wanted. He didn’t ask anyone’s permission – and his wife is the queen. That’s why i love it. ”

It was up to him to take on the role of Philip in his youth, who was newly married to Isabel II and was disappointed by the incarceration of the role of the minor character in Casa Real. In searching for the role, Smith admits to having found some contradictions, especially in the picture passed on by Philip – also marked by the eternal secret of possible extramarital relationships.

“As a society, we have rightly praised Isabel II for being an example of a powerful, brilliant, and stylish woman. But in a way, here is an example of a brilliant and rebellious man. Why, as men, are we not allowed to celebrate this fictitiously or fictitiously? I felt like I had a lot of praise and celebration at Philip’s. “

Matt Smith on the first season of “The Crown”

Aside from admiration, Smith admits that he resorted to a few tricks to make his interpretation more real, namely the way Philip is almost always with his hands behind his back. Another trick was based on the Duke of Edinburgh’s way of speaking, which was gathered after many hours of watching archive videos and reading books to give context to the characters.

“He always used a little physical trick and a different voice, things that he repeated, repeated, repeated,” he revealed on a UK radio program 4. “He always walks with his hands behind his back and I started doing the same thing . And then he did something that still makes Claire Foy laugh to this day. He always said “Oh no, yes”, “Oh no, absolutely fine”. Or he would say ‘Olympic’ because he says the word perfectly. “

The secret letters that inspired Tobias Menzies

From the second to the third season of the series, the chronological leap forced the election of a new cast. It would be a difficult task, not least because it would scrutinize the complicated life of the Duke of Edinburgh. The difficult task of taking on the role of Philip lay with Tobias Menzies.

He was the actor who survived Philip’s traumatic childhood experiences, from the expulsion of his family from Greece to the internment of his schizophrenic mother to the tragic plane crash that killed his sister. It is probably the most tragic past of any member of the royal family.

“He is a very complex person,” Menzies revealed in an interview with “Vanity Fair” at the end of 2020. “Although it doesn’t reveal much in the interviews, it is possible to capture a lot of things atmospherically. It seems emotionally hot to me. There is always an element of frustration and irritability, of suppressed emotions. I am sure he would deny it all. “

Menzies also emphasizes the weight Philip would have on the fact that he was almost always in the queen’s shadow. And most importantly, the way that weight has affected your personality over the years.

“When I saw this alpha male, someone who clearly enjoys being busy and having influence to get stuck in this ceremonial function (…), I felt that this was the starting point, someone with a lot of emotion within, but who a spends a lot of time trying to suppress it. This basic tension was the touchstone [para o papel]. ”

Despite the seriousness, Philip also has an easier side that is perhaps the most fun. “On the other hand, he’s funny. Much of this comes out with a certain irritation, but also with some comments and jokes – some aren’t awesome, some are even inappropriate. But I feel that they are all expressions of the desire to annoy the structure of things, to stir the water. “

Tobias Menzies just missed the role. I was 45 years old at the time of the casting. Those in charge were looking for someone in their fifties. A couple of scenes with Olivia Colman, who played the Queen in seasons three and four, were enough to win the production over.

Diana and Philip’s relationship is one of the highlights of last season

In addition to the 90 minutes of characterization required each time you prepared for the shot, the role was also a technical challenge. “You always try to reach a point close to you, be it in terms of sound or movement. But it’s very subtle – you don’t want it to be a cartoon. It’s difficult to get immersed in the drama when you focus too much on imitation, ”he told ScreenDaily.

The study of the figure was taken seriously, with recourse to many of Philip’s sound recordings, but also to many archive videos. He realized that there was a noticeable difference in the Duke’s formalities between the 50s and 60s and between the 90s.

Despite the hard work of research, Menzies was aware that he would play a version of Philip idealized by the series creator Peter Morgan. “I’ve been clinging to the videos, but the Philip we’re showing on the show is Philip from Peter. I’m sure the differences between this version of Peter and the real person could lead to a PhD thesis. “

Much of the characterization of the character has already been done over the past two seasons by Matt Smith, a job Menzies thanked – and didn’t want to spoil. However, something else emerged in the story: Princess Diana, who forges a visible and important connection with the Duke of Edinburgh.

Menzies admits that one of the challenges was the lack of public records of the relationship between members of the royal family, although in building that relationship he had access to very valuable documents: a couple of copies of letters from the correspondence between Diana and Philip.

“I was impressed by the balanced, calm and loving atmosphere of the cards.
Obviously, Philip worked hard to maintain and nurture this relationship outside of the public eye. And if these letters show anything, he seems to be a huge supporter of Diana. “

After all, the other personality trait of Philip that shaped Menzies the most was his ability to “resist bullshit”. “It must be a strange life because when he walks into a room he is full of nervous people and is afraid to speak. You probably say little. And he’s the one who has to keep the housekeeping bogus all the time, so I fully understand that when trying to start conversations, he says from time to time what not to do. “