Owen plays Raleigh to Blanchett's Elizabeth
The stuff of magic: Owen plays Raleigh to Blanchett's Elizabeth
By Chris Hastings, Arts Correspondent
Clive Owen, the brooding star of Closer and Sin City, is to play Sir Walter Raleigh in a £20 million sequel to the 1998 film Elizabeth.
Owen, 40, is in talks to star opposite Cate Blanchett who will reprise her role as the Virgin Queen. The film, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, will detail the Tudor monarch's tempestuous relationship with Raleigh and suggest that Elizabeth was infatuated with the courtier and adventurer.
Clive Owen as tough-guy Dwight in Frank Miller's Sin City
The exact nature of the Queen's relationship with Raleigh, which was the talk of the Elizabethan Court, continues to fuel speculation.
Some historians believe that the Queen's extravagant largesse towards the former soldier, by granting properties and trading monopolies, was proof of a deep infatuation. There is also ample evidence to suggest that she was jealous of his relationships with other women.
He was thrown in the Tower for a time when it emerged that he had seduced one of her ladies in waiting.
For his part, Raleigh, who described himself as "wholly gentleman and wholly soldier", never missed an opportunity to flatter Elizabeth in public. On one occasion he is reputed to have attracted her attention by scribbling verses on a pane of glass with a diamond.
A source close to the film, which will be directed by Shekhar Kapur, who also directed Elizabeth, said the casting of Blanchett and Owen was the stuff of cinema magic.
"These are two stars who are capable of generating some real electricity," he said. "We are talking about two of the most beautiful people to grace the big screen."
While the pairing should prove a winner at the box office, it is unlikely to go down well with Elizabethan experts.
Jane Dunn, the biographer who wrote the acclaimed Elizabeth and Mary, Cousins, Rivals, Queens, said she welcomed Blanchett's decision to reprise the role but was worried that Owen's involvement in the sequel might mean that the producers were "trying to sex things up". She said there was no evidence to suggest that Elizabeth slept with Raleigh or "any other man on the make".
"I loved what Cate did in the first film because I think she was extremely moving in the lead role," she said.
"Having said that, the history in the first film was bunkum. It was mixed up and unnecessarily wrong. I fear that they will try to sex things up. The remarkable thing about Elizabeth was not that she jumped into bed with every man she met but that she so effectively resisted temptation.
"People did speculate that she slept with Raleigh, among others, but they also speculated that she was incapable of physically making love to anyone. There is no evidence that she slept with any man.
"It was in Raleigh's interests to be flirtatious with her. He was a young man on the make and that is what those kind of men did at Court. She did enjoy the attention of these sorts of swashbucklers but it did not go any further."
The Raleigh role will be another feather in his cap for Owen, who has been inundated with offers since his eye-catching turn as a down-on-his-luck gambler in the low-budget 1998 film will take Croupier.
He has also had starring roles in Gosford Park, King Arthur, and Closer, for which he won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor. Blanchett, who was catapulted to stardom by Elizabeth, is keen to take on the role again now that she has proved herself in other parts.
Earlier this year she won an Oscar for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, which co-starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes.
Her return to the part puts her in a club of elite actresses who have played Elizabeth more than once. Glenda Jackson played her in Elizabeth R and Mary Queen of Scots, and Bette Davis starred in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and The Virgin Queen.
Richard Todd, 86, the veteran British actor who played Raleigh opposite Bette Davis in The Virgin Queen in 1955, said last night that he had never heard of Owen, but Raleigh was a great part to play.
"You can never capture the whole of the man in just one performance," he said. "You have to focus on part of him and that is what the new film should do."
The new film will also show the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.