Centrepiece Gala supported by the Mayor of London
Hyde Park on Hudson
Roger Michell explores the secret relationship of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley.
Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.
- Director Roger Michell
- Producer David Aukin, Kevin Loader, Roger Michell
- Screenwriter Richard Nelson
- With Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West
- UK 2012
- 95 mins
- UK distribution Universal Pictures International UK
Roger Michell’s (Notting Hill) whimsical, clever and ever so slightly risqué Hyde Park on Hudson is sheer movie-going delight. In a perfect narrative double-take on the term ‘special relationship’, the story of the secret love affair between Franklin D Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley (Laura Linney) centres on the weekend in 1939 when King George (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) pay a royal visit to upstate New York with the objective of securing the United States’ allegiance in the impending war. Based on Stuckley’s diaries and letters, discovered after her death, Richard Nelson’s finely modulated script balances charm, comedy and political acuity. Bill Murray’s impish performance as FDR oscillates between playful and serious, proving a delicious contrast to Laura Linney’s gentle naivety and Olivia Williams’ energetic swagger as the forthright Eleanor Roosevelt. Intriguingly, given its essentially female perspective, the heart of the film is to be found in an extraordinary scene between the two leaders – the roguish, paternal American President, and the nervous young British King – an encounter that will ultimately define the future alliance. Excellent cinematography and production design from Lol Crawley (Ballast; Here) and Simon Bowles respectively complete this dreamy, impeccable film.
After finishing this film, I happened to be re-reading my father’s tea-stained copy of William L Shirer’s Berlin Diary. Shirer was an American journalist who spent much of WWII heroically broadcasting from Berlin. In the entry for July 20, 1940, he talks of FDR being re-nominated in Chicago for a third term, an event which the Nazi press described as having been achieved by methods ‘sharply condemned by all eyewitnesses’. He goes on: Hitler fears Roosevelt. He is just beginning to comprehend that Roosevelt’s support of Great Britain is one of the prime reasons that the British decline to accept his offer of peace. Shirer then quotes the following telling passage from the Frankfurter Zeitung: Roosevelt is the father of English illusions about this war. It may be that Roosevelt’s shabby tactics are too much for the Americans, it may be that he will not be re-elected, it may be that, if he is re-elected, he will stick closely to the non-intervention programme of his party. But it is also clear that while he may not intervene with his fleet or his army, he will intervene with speeches, with intrigues, and with a powerful propaganda which he will put at the disposal of the English. By choosing to go against the immediate interests of his party, and against prevailing tides of isolationism or worse within his own electorate, FDR offered very real hope to England in what must have seemed at the time a hopeless situation. Many would have seen a kind of peace with Hitler as the only sensible way to avoid summary invasion. The weekend at Hyde Park on Hudson, twelve weeks before the outbreak of the War and the subject of our film, becomes, in my mind, even more of an historical fulcrum: a moment where the smallest gesture has the greatest echo. Like catastrophe theory, which posits that a butterfly’s beating wings may generate by infinite degree of separation a mighty storm, so does a mouthful of hot dog (ironically a Frankfurter, no less) prefigure Omaha Beach and Victory in Europe. Richard Nelson’s marvellous script delicately juxtaposes the public and the private, and the domestic and the epic. The sweep of great events and the persuasive power of great personalities vie for a hand at the tiller of history. My father flew Lancasters over Berlin, was shot down, and was a POW. He is long dead. I put his copy of the Shirer diaries back on the shelf and feel the echoes of the King’s Top Cottage picnic still vibrating around me.
The son of an English diplomat, he was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1956 and as a child lived in Beirut, Damascus, and Prague. He started directing plays at school before going on to Cambridge. In 1977, he won the Royal Shakespeare Company Buzz Goodbody Award at the National Student Drama Festival as well as a Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival. He has subsequently directed plays at the National Theatre, the Old Vic, the Lyric Hammersmith, Donmar Warehouse, Hampstead, the Royal Court, the Almeida, in the West End, and on Broadway and elsewhere. For six years, he was resident director at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and London. In the mid-90s, he began directing for screens big and small. His work for TV includes the award-winning miniseries The Buddha of Suburbia, marking the first of his many collaborations with Hanif Kureishi; documentaries for the BBC; and a number of commercials. His eclectic run of feature films as director have included the Jane Austen adaptation Persuasion, for which he shared a BAFTA Award with the creative team, the rom-com smash Notting Hill and his most recent LFF-screened title, Venus, with Peter O’Toole, Leslie Phillips and Jodie Whittaker. He has directed several productions of plays by Richard Nelson, writer of Hyde Park on Hudson, including the Spring 2012 world premiere staging of Farewell to the Theatre.
1997 My Night with Reg
1998 Titanic Town
1999 Notting Hill
2002 Changing Lanes
2003 The Mother
2004 Enduring Love
2010 Morning Glory
2012 Hyde Park on Hudson