The Crown has finally locked down its Duke of Edinburgh: After rumors that Hugh Laurie would slip into the role opposite Olivia Colman’s Elizabeth, the show announced it hired Tobias Menzies — whom you might recognize from his role as the eeeeeevil Black Jack Randall and his sadsack ancestor Frank on Outlander.
This is pretty interesting casting. In the plus column, Menzies can be darkly charming, but he can also play cold, dismissive, and even cruel very well. He’s got a VERY chilly jawline, if that makes sense, and he’s got a touch of Phil’s nose. He’s recognizable but not so crazy famous that he couldn’t dissolve into this part (say what you will about Philip in the first two seasons, but Matt Smith did a very good job, especially at making you forget he was Doctor Who; all the blinding rage the writing induced probably helped). I’m not sure how Tobias is going to look with lightened hair and/or a thinning cap, depending on how old this Philip is meant to be, but that might help him take an extra step out any shadow cast by Black Jack. It’s easy to envision Menzies having no patience for poor sensitive Charles, and eyerolling all the other pomp and circumstance, and yet I have no trouble imagining him as staunchly protective of the Queen (should Peter Morgan decide to play it that way; we all know he LOVES Whiny Manbaby Philip). So I think he’s up to the job.
I can’t get a read on how tall Menzies is, although I don’t know Colman’s height, either, and that’s why God and Tom Cruise invented apple boxes. The sticky wicket for me is that I’m not sure what age he reads as on-screen, versus what age he’s meant to play. He and Matt Smith don’t feel very far apart, to me, in that sense, but we also don’t yet know — or at least I haven’t read it — what era of the Queen’s life this will cover. Menzies and Colman are both 44. Helena Bonham Carter, who by last reports is still “nearing a deal” to play Princess Margaret, is 51, and to me actually transmits as older than that. It’s no secret I’m not a huge fan of that casting; HBC tends to gobble up the screen around her, and while she was admittedly able to resist that as the Queen Mum in The King’s Speech, I’m not sure I trust her to show a ton of restraint where Marg is concerned. But, while one could argue Margaret lived very hard, I’m not sure she ever looked older than her sister, and I believe HBC is going to read as somewhat senior to Menzies and Colman.
But, I also wonder if that deal is going to run into roadblocks. Obviously The Crown has plenty of money, but after the mini-escandelo blew up about Claire Foy being paid less than Matt Smith, the producers announced that the Queen will always be the top-earner on the show — cold comfort for Foy, but also possibly a wrench in the works for landing Helena Bonham Carter, because she’s quite a big name. Would she lower her fee? Is she already not asking for an outrageous sum? Can they up Colman’s salary enough to make it equivalent? Maybe this also threw the Laurie negotiations off; who knows.
Regardless, this post is about Tobias Menzies, and here he is: your Prince Philip. What do you think? And can we get Sam Heughan in on this action? Ooh, let’s reimagine Porchy as a virile Scottish hunk.