'Lost King' keeps British royals center-stage at Toronto festival

·3-min read

From "The Queen" to "The Lost King," which had its world premiere at the Toronto film festival Friday, Stephen Frears has built much of his storied career directing movies about the British monarchy.

But a day after the death of Queen Elizabeth II united millions around the world in grief, he admitted he was still at a loss to explain why the global public remains so fixated on the royal family.

"I don't know, people just are! And I seem to have profited from it. So I should keep quiet," he joked to AFP on the film's red carpet at North America's biggest film festival.

His latest comedy-drama "The Lost King" -- the stranger-than-fiction true story of a Scottish housewife finding a Medieval English king beneath a car park, given the Hollywood big-screen treatment -- was already an improbable movie, before the timing of its world premiere.

"It's very, very nice to be here, and quite odd on this day of all days," the director told the premiere audience at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre, which had dimmed its marquee lights following word of the Queen's passing.

"Here we are at the premiere of our movie 'The Lost King' on the day when the world is coming to terms with the lost queen," co-writer Jeff Pope told AFP on the red carpet.

The movie itself -- starring Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan -- depicts how amateur historian Philippa Langley defied all the odds to successfully track down and unearth the 500-year-old remains of controversial monarch Richard III.

"The death of the Queen is something that most Britons are genuinely moved by and, whatever their cultural differences, most people have huge respect for the Queen and what she did," Coogan told AFP on the red carpet.

"But putting that to one side, I think our film is not really about an obsession with monarchy itself -- it's specifically Richard III, who is this sort of demonized king.

"And Philippa Langley herself was marginalized, and is marginalized even after her quest to discover the lost king."

- 'Woman King' -

Elsewhere in Toronto Friday, Viola Davis and John Boyega kept the royal theme center-stage as they walked the red carpet for the launch of "The Woman King," a historical epic about the 19th-century female warriors of the west African kingdom of Dahomey.

"It's great to have a project that highlights female leaders, but at the same time, it's great to show the vulnerabilities and the hardship that can sometimes come with that," Boyega told AFP.

"To show what needs to be overcome... I think (is) something that men and women can be inspired by," he added.

And Hillary Clinton introduced "In Her Hands," a new Netflix documentary about women's rights in Afghanistan which she produced alongside her daughter Chelsea.

It focuses on Zarifa Ghafari, one of Afghanistan's first female mayors, who survived a Taliban assassination attempt and whose father was killed before she fled the country upon the fall of Kabul last year.

The former US Secretary of State said she had fallen in love with Afghan "women and girls who were able to go to school and practice their professions and, as in Zarifa's case, enter politics."

"But as we all know, tragically, the story that you're about to see is one that's almost unimaginable -- to be forced to leave your home, your friends, members of your extended family, to seek a new life elsewhere," she added.

- A-listers -

The Toronto International Film Festival has witnessed the return of large cinephile crowds for which it is renowned, after being hit badly by the pandemic for two muted years.

Steven Spielberg will lead a host of Hollywood A-listers across the border for the world premiere of his deeply personal, childhood-inspired "The Fabelmans."

Other stars due in Toronto this weekend include Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne in "The Good Nurse," Jennifer Lawrence in "Causeway," and Daniel Craig in "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery."

TIFF runs until September 18.