Madonna is accused of rewriting history in Abdication movie
Madonna has been accused of distorting history in a film about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson by portraying the King as an unlikely sex symbol and the late Queen Mother as a villainous plotter.
Insiders say the pop star’s depiction of the couple at the centre of the 1936 Abdication crisis in W.E., her second film as a director, is overly sympathetic and largely unrecognisable.
The £18million film, currently being shot in Britain and France and due for release next year, intersperses Edward’s affair with the American divorcee with a love story set in 1998.
Fact and fiction: Director Madonna on the set of ther film W.E. It has already received criticism for an overly sympathetic portrayal of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson
In a further Royal controversy, Madonna, 52, has included a ‘friendly’ portrayal of Mohamed Al Fayed, who still insists the Princess of Wales and his son Dodi were murdered by the Royal establishment in 1997.
One source close to the project said: ‘The portrayal is so far removed from reality they’re almost unrecognisable to anyone who knows the facts. The film may work as entertainment but it certainly doesn’t work as history.’
Madonna’s decision to play ‘fast and loose’ with facts has already caused problems.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal she wanted Alastair Bruce, one of the Queen’s Heralds and an Extra Equerry to the Earl and Countess of Wessex, to advise on the film.
After he met the singer, Mr Bruce is believed to have declined because he was uncomfortable with the ‘extreme’ blurring of fact and fiction.
An insider said: ‘Madonna’s Edward is a Latin lover-type, a strong-willed macho figure, more than a match for a determined and outspoken Wallis.
‘But in reality he was rather an effeminate figure who wasn’t a great-looking man. He was always slightly in awe of Wallis.’
The source added: ‘You could say he has become a sort of fantasy figure for Madonna. She is a strong-willed American like Wallis and she has dreamt up the sort of man who could deal with her.’
Madonna is understood to have told British actor James D’Arcy, who plays Edward, to adopt a more confident tone than the real King to film the Abdication speech, in which he announced he would give up the throne to marry ‘the woman I love’.
The move resolved the constitutional crisis of twice-divorced Mrs Simpson having two living ex-husbands. After the Abdication, Edward was created Duke of Windsor by his brother and successor, George VI.
He married Wallis six months later and she became Duchess of Windsor. In the film she is played by Andrea Riseborough, 28, who portrayed the young Margaret Thatcher in the TV drama The Long Walk To Finchley.
Controversy: Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson on the set of W.E.
The film’s depiction of George VI’s wife Elizabeth is also controversial. The future Queen Mother is said to be the closest thing in it to a villain, with her and her husband portrayed as plotting against the couple.
Madonna was forced to shoot the Windsor Castle scenes in Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire after Buckingham Palace declined to help.
Glamorising the Duke and Duchess further risks provoking uproar because the couple have been accused of having had pro-Nazi tendencies in the late Thirties.
Several big names attached to the project, including Ewan McGregor and Vera Farmiga, George Clooney’s co-star in Up In The Air, also pulled out before filming began.
Margo Stilley, a British actress who was to play Lady Thelma Furness, a mistress of Edward, quit after the cameras started rolling, citing artistic differences with Madonna.
Australian actress Abbie Cornish, 28, stars in W.E. as a woman who immerses herself in the Abdication affair as solace from her own loveless marriage in 1998.
At an auction of items belonging to the Duke and Duchess, she meets and falls in love with a Russian security guard. In one scene, Mr Al Fayed, who owned many of the Duke and Duchess’s former possessions before auctioning them, is shown helping Miss Cornish’s character with her research on the Royal couple.
The ex-Harrods owner’s portrayal will raise questions about the extent of his involvement. In June, Madonna made a surprise appearance at a school fete organised by the Egyptian tycoon for his daughter Camilla.
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