Richard III: Through the eyes of Hollywood
In the image, the king looks less sinister and a lot more handsome than we’ve been led to believe - he’s still got a slightly arched nose though.
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For many of us, our perceptions of the last Plantagenet king have been shaped by Laurence Olivier’s immortal performance in the 1955 film version of Shakespeare’s play.
Real deal... what Plantagenet king looked like (Credit: Rex Features)
It was the definitive portrayal from arguably England’s finest-ever actor, unforgettable with his black pageboy wig, enormous hump and false nose. He also sported a real-life limp, after a stunt archer accidently shot him. Ever the pro, Larry carried on with the scene.
As one review put it, the character was perfect for Olivier’s “detached approach and chilly magnetism”. His performance was so engaging that “the viewer can only root for his vicious but charismatic cripple”.
Happy as Larry... Olivier's definitive Richard III (Credit: Rex Features)
The film was a flop when it was released, so desperate producers brokered a deal with NBC that saw it broadcast on TV at the same time as its cinema release. It was the last time that Olivier directed a movie version of Shakespeare, though it would end up highly profitable.
Olivier’s Richard became part of popular culture. It was parodied by Peter Cook in the first-ever episode of ‘Blackadder’. Cook spoofed Olivier’s Richard by playing the king as kind and generous, his opening words: “now is the summer of our sweet content”.
Inspiring... Peter Cook in 'Blackadder' and 'Shrek's' Lord Farquaad (Credit: BBC/Dreamworks)
Lord Farquaad, the vertically-challenged villain in the ‘Shrek’ series, also bears more than a passing resemblance to Larry’s Rich.