You don't hear much these days about King Louis XIV ... or, for that matter, about cable's Ovation network. But now the two have linked for the lush and involving "Versailles" cable series. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
If you mention King
Louis XIV, all the fanciest notions pop up.
furniture, the fashions, the fuss and flair. There's the young king
who danced in 40 ballets, propelled an age of artistry and built a
700-room palace. Did he have any time left?
David Wolstencroft, co-creator of the lush “Versailles” series on
cable's Ovation channel. This was someone who had full power for a
half-century; his official reign (starting when he was 5) was 72
years, the longest for any major country. During that time, he:
-- Transformed the
government. “Any historical moment is just a swirling mass of chaos
that you have to attack,” Wolstencroft said. Louis saw France
emerge from the edge of bankruptcy, fight large wars and establish
colonies, including one (Louisiana) bearing his name.
-- Had vigorous
romances. “I think Louis had 42 kids in all – 21 legitimate and
-- And kept
expanding that palace, which tops 720,000 square feet. “You can't
imagine the scope of it,” said George Blagden, who plays Louis. “It
is so vast and so excessive. It's breathtaking.”
English-speaking role was more than could be expected by a British
kid who grew up hearing good things about France. “My mom and dad
lived in France for about eight years,” Blagden said. “I would go
there on holiday.”
By then, he was in
thboarding schools, focusing on music (voice, guitar, piano) and
acting. Blagden was in the National Youth Theatre and was singled out
for a master class with Ian McKellan. He landed top roles – as the
captured monk in “Vikings” and the skeptical revolutionary in
Armed with a lot of
theater training and with a tad of French language and history,
Blagden headed into this role. “The weight of it really hits you,”
he said. “Especially the fact that the French crew would refer to
you as Louis – and would even bow.”
Helping, he said,
-- The costumes.
“The idea of wearing five layers of very heavy clothing in ...
August in Paris is kind of stifling, (but) this just wouldn't be the
role it is without it.”
-- The Versailles.
“It was this amazing decision, to build a large palace in what was
like the Eveglades.”
This had been Louis'
father's hunting lodge, a dozen miles from the French capital in
Paris. It was something Louis cherished, Wolstencroft said. “This
is a young man who hunted.”
He tightened his
control of the country at 23 and at 27, after the deaths of the
Cardinal and of Louis' mother. We meet him at 28, dreaming big things
Over the next 14
years, it would have four major expansions, reaching its ultimate
size. Also expanding would be Louis' control over economy, art,
religion and ... well, lots of things besides furniture.
10-hour mini-series, 10 p.m. ET Saturdays, cable's Ovation, rerunning
at 1 a.m.
-- First two hours
are Oct. 1; they repeats at 11 p.m. Oct. 8, after the third hour.