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There are few shows that have taken as deep a dive into the inner-workings of the royal family as much as the Netflix drama The Crown. Over the course of the show's first three seasons (with Season 4 quickly approaching), Peter Morgan and crew have continually produced some of the most entertaining television the world has seen in years, but they have also the recreated some of the most significant moments of Queen Elizabeth II's reign as the ruling monarch of Britain. And no surprise here, but the labor-intensive production, not to mention rotating principal cast, makes for some fairly interesting behind-the-scenes facts of how it all came together.
So, grab your tea and crumpets, find a pack of corgis, and sit down and relax because we have a lot to cover in a short amount of time. Here are 10 interesting facts about The Crown.
Peter Morgan Came Up With The Idea For The Crown While Working On Another Project About Queen Elizabeth II
Peter Morgan was no stranger to Queen Elizabeth II, or at least portrayals of her, when he first came up with the idea of The Crown. In the years leading up to the successful and expensive Netflix program, Morgan wrote the Academy Award-winning 2006 drama The Queen and the 2013 West End play The Audience, which is actually where the acclaimed writer first started toying around with an idea that would later become the show we all know and love today.
For those unaware, The Audience centers around the weekly meetings between Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren reprising her role from the 2006 film) and her various prime ministers throughout her reign. During a conversation with The Visionaries in 2018, Peter Morgan revealed that he came up with the idea when working on the conversations between Winston Churchill and a young Elizabeth shortly after she became Queen, and he thought it could become its very own movie. After working on the idea in his head, Morgan quickly realized that the story couldn't be told in a single movie and instead pursued the idea of making a television program.
The Crown's Production Designer Made A Faithful Recreation Of Buckingham Palace Despite Having Limited Access
If you didn't know any better, you would think that Netflix was able to pull some strings and film The Crown at the real Buckingham Palace. And while it's fun to think about a world where Peter Morgan and company were able to convince Queen Elizabeth II to hand over the keys to her palace while she was relaxing at Balmoral Castle, I'm afraid that's not the case. Not being able to film at the actual Buckingham Palace (or even visit the private rooms where much of the show takes place) made things difficult for production designer Martin Childs, who shared his process with Vulture in 2017:
I researched everything I could learn about Buckingham Palace, including visiting its state rooms as a tourist. One place you are never allowed to go, for obvious reasons, are the private apartments. There are however, rough layouts available.
One thing that Martin Childs learned in his research was that a lot of the rooms are connected without the use of corridors, which came in handy when setting up all of those great shots of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip conversing (or staring at one another) in their separate bedrooms connected by a shared dressing room.
The Decision To Recast The Principal Cast Every Two Seasons Was Always Part Of The Plan
From the very beginning, The Crown was supposed to be a dramatization of Queen Elizabeth II's reign from the very beginning up until late in her life, something that would have been nearly impossible to pull off in a realistic manner if the production kept the same group of actors for the whole run. Going into it, Peter Morgan knew that he would have to replace the principal cast every two seasons because of that. During a conversation with the New York Times in 2019, Peter Morgan explained that he believed that viewers would have a hard time believing an actor as they play a character that has aged more than 20 years since the start, so he made the decision to replace the actors every two seasons.
Claire Foy Wasn't Upset About Being Recast After Season 2
You would think that Claire Foy, who took home a Golden Globe as well as an Emmy for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, would have been upset, or at least a little bummed about being recast after she completed filming on Season 2 of The Crown, but as she explained at the BFI & Radio Times Festival (via The Independent) in 2017, she was kind of happy that it was only a two-season commitment, stating:
That's not a shock — we always knew when we signed up to it, and also not to be funny but it's also a real plus. As an actor there's nothing worse than the sound of 'seven years.' I'm sure to some people it sounds amazing but to us it's like, seven years of playing the same person? And this is a tough job, you know? It's long, a good nine-monther [working on the show each year]. And that's a lot of your life that you sign over to it.
And who's to blame her? Claire Foy has gone on to have success in film projects like First Man and The Girl in the Spider's Web, as well as teaming up with her The Crown co-star Matt Smith in the stage production, Lungs. It's hard to imagine Foy having time for all that while still playing Queen Elizabeth II.
Matt Smith Enjoyed Bringing The Conflict In Prince Philip To Life
One of the most engaging aspects of the first two seasons of The Crown was the portrayal of Prince Philip by Matt Smith as a man who has to sacrifice so much of himself now that he is the husband of the Queen of England. It was this part of the character that Smith enjoyed so much about being a part of the Netflix series as he told Variety in 2017:
I'm always really compelled by the deep conflict in Philip. He's a very male character, whatever that means nowadays, and his duty to his wife and the strange conflict it generates in him: the desire to be the head of the family and being usurped.
And this is something that is very evident in the first two seasons of the series as Prince Philip has not quite settled into his role and no longer being the head of the household. This spark and animosity can still be felt in Tobias Menzies' portrayal in Season 3, but that reluctance to change and accept his place in the world is seen best in Matt Smith's depiction of the character in those first two seasons.
There Was Originally A Sex Scene Involving Margaret, But Royal Nudity Was A No-Go
In addition to Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and their at times rocky relationship, The Crown also features the various lovers of the queen's sister, Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) throughout the show. Well, one of the most heated relationships involving Margaret is the one with her soon-to-be husband Antony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode), and it appears the romance was originally supposed to be more hot and heavy than we saw in the final product.
While speaking about the courtship during a 2017 Netflix press day event (via Hello Giggles), Kirby revealed that the pair was originally supposed to film a sex scene to build up the relationship, but the producers couldn't decide how to go about showing royal nudity and the scene was cut.
Olivia Colman Went Through Speech And Movement Training For Her Depiction Of The Queen
We still have one more season of Olivia Colman's depiction of Queen Elizabeth II before she is replaced in Season 5 of The Crown, and there's never been a better time to recall how the Academy Award-winning actress prepared for one of her biggest roles. During a 2018 conversation with the New York Times, Colman revealed that in addition to watching hours upon hours of videos of Elizabeth, she also spent time with voice coaches and even a movement coach who helped her get down the Queen's posture and way of walking, stating:
I walk a bit like a farmer, not a queen, and I'm not a very good physical impersonator. So there is a dollop of artistic license.
And all of that hard work has seemed to pay off for Olivia Colman, especially considering the rave reviews her performance has received as well as the Golden Globe win and Emmy nomination that came from her first season on the show.
Helena Bonham Carter Had A Great Deal Of Anxiety When Preparing To Portray Princess Margaret
Playing a member of the royal family wasn't anything new for Helena Bonham Carter when she was cast as Margaret in Season 3 of The Crown, but she still had a great deal of stress when she began preparing for the role. In a conversation with Variety in 2020, Carter revealed that she was anxious about the production all the way up until the first day of shooting, but that conducting extensive research and even meeting with people who knew the late princess helped put her anxiety at bay.
There were multiple reasons why Helena Bonham Carter initially felt worried about taking on the role (she even almost turned it down), but it mostly had to do with the fact that the previous actress to portray Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) won a BAFTA and the fact that so many people knew the real-life Margaret. But it all seemed to work out for Carter, as she received a great deal of acclaim for her role and has even been nominated for an Emmy for her performance.
Carter Even Went As Far As To Speak To The Late Princess' Spirit
Reading up on Princess Margaret and having conversations with some of the people who knew her best wasn't the only way Helena Bonham Carter prepared for her role in The Crown. The other way Carter got ready for the role was to speak the actual Margaret, who had been dead for 17 years at the time. To accomplish that, Carter turned to a psychic, who helped her get the deceased princess' blessing from beyond the grave.
This was all revealed at the 2019 Cheltenham Literature Festival, where Helen Bonham Carter provided some details regarding the unorthodox conversation. Through their other-worldly discussion, Carter explained that the late princess told her that she was better than the other actress who was being considered for the role, before telling her that she needed to get the smoking right and make it look more like an expression than anything else.
Despite Stating He Would End The Show After Season 5, Peter Morgan Agreed To Another Year
At the very beginning of the planning stages for The Crown, Peter Morgan wanted the show to last six seasons, but it was announced in January 2020 that the show would wrap up after its fifth and final season. At the time of the announcement, Morgan told Variety that although he originally set out to have six seasons, he felt that Season 5 was the perfect place to stop the story of Queen Elizabeth II. However, the show went back to the original plan of having six seasons later in July 2020, when Morgan told Deadline that the story would be more fleshed out and told over the course of the final two seasons.
With the show going up to the early 2000s, there will still be plenty to work in and many tense moments to recapture, especially with the casting of Imedla Staunton (of Harry Potter fame) as the elderly Queen Elizabeth II and Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Dianna.
All of that should get you pretty pumped up (well, at least as much as the royals will allow) about the upcoming season of The Crown. For more information on the show's return and dozens of other programs coming back to the small screen later this year, check out our Fall 2020 TV Premiere Guide at CinemaBlend.