Lavish over-the-top drama as Loius XIV builds the opulent palace of Versailles, premieres on Ovation October 1st at 10pm *** 3 Stars
By Gabrielle Pantera
HOLYLWOOD, CA (Hollywood Daily Star) 2016/9/30 – “A lot of relationship drama,” says Versailles star Alexander Vlahos, who plays Philippe. “I’m the king’s brother. This is my beautiful wife. Philippe is an open homosexual. He has a boyfriend called Le Chevalier. Henrietta is the king’s mistress. This is sort of a proper European dysfunctional family. The whole scope of the show is an epic drama. It’s huge. We got to film in Versailles, which is closed on Mondays.”
“The relationship between the king and Henrietta, in historical books you can’t find proof it existed,” says Schmidt, the king’s brother’s wife and the king’s mistress. “They were very close. We had a historical consultant on set at all times so we could ask him a lot of questions.”
“I had five beautiful dresses that were perfectly my size and were made for me,” says Versailles star Noemie Schmidt. “The costume designer is amazing. She designed every character with a type of color and a type of style that were beautiful.”
“The amazing thing for me was how modern that world was at that time,” says Versailles star George Blagden who plays the king. “It’s very modern in comparison to Vikings.”
“The thing that got me really excited was the vulnerability of this man,” says Blagden. “I was going to be allowed to show that and open a season of a show of this scale with a man this weak, with a man this fragile. And that was kind of the key for me in getting into this role, was being allowed to show this really fragile side to this king, who we’ve only known really in popular culture and popular history as this omnipotent figure.”
Similar in tone to The Tudors, Versailles presents palace intrigues, bed hopping, aristocrats trying to better themselves or save themselves from the king’s enmity. There’s lots of sex. It is, of course, France.
Eye candy? Yes, lots. With sumptuous dresses and the wardrobe for Louis and his brother Philippe are even better than for the women.
The characters are flawed, and the actors do well with portraying that. With only courtier diaries and letter to family and friends to say what was happening in the court, the writers had to invent many details. While the triangle relationship is interesting, the actual history seems lost in the mix. The script lacks the deliciousness of Downton Abbey. However, Versailles is much more visual in lasciviousness. There are graphic sex scenes including man-on-man action.
A primary character is Versailles, the palace itself. It’s being expanded from the King’s hunting lodge to a grand palace.
Louis the XIV becomes known as The Sun King. When he was four his father died, making king. His mother Anne was able to put aside Louis XIII’s will. She ran the country instead of a regency council that was supposed to rule for the young king. She was assisted by her chief minister and close confidant Cardinal Jules Mazarin. After Mazarin died Louis took control. He was 28. He believes in the divine right of kings, in total power. Louis would build his dream palace, like the Egyptians built their pyramids.
Louis needed to control his noblemen and the people around him. His treasury was low due to theft from his advisers, crooked aristocrats and politicians. He regained control by moving the court to Versailles. Everything he needed was brought to him there.
Louis and his brother Philippe had a love-hate relationship. Philippe claimed he had his brothers back, but their sibling rivalry was epic.
Starts Saturdays October 1st, 2016 at 10pm. There are 10 episodes in the first season.
Versailles Trailer: Viewer Discretion Advised
Production cost £21m (About 27M US dollars). It was lavish in the extreme. Created by Simon Mirren and David Wolstencroft. Co-produced by Capa Drama, Incendo Productions and Zodiak Media Group
- George Blagden: Louis XIV
- Alexander Vlahos: Philippe I, Duke of Orléans
- Elisa Lasowski: Maria Theresa of Spain
- Stuart Bowman: Alexandre Bontemps
- Tygh Runyan: Fabien Marchal
- Dominique Blanc: Anne of Austria
- Noémie Schmidt: Henrietta of England
- Evan Williams: Chevalier de Lorraine
- Amira Casar: Béatrice, Madame de Clermont
- Anna Brewster: Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan
- Sarah Winter: Louise de La Vallière
- Maddison Jaizani: Sophie
- Anatole Taubman: Montcourt
- Pip Torrens: Cassel
- Lizzie Brocheré: Claudine
- Steve Cumyn: Jean-Baptiste Colbert
- Joe Sheridan: François-Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois
- Geoffrey Bateman: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
- Thierry Harcourt: André Le Nôtre