Peter Morgan covers the latest issue of Variety, all to preview the final season of The Crown, the first part of which comes out in just a few weeks. While most of The Crown’s actors are British and therefore not taking part in the SAG-AFTRA strike, I do think most of the actors are refusing to do promotion in solidarity with their SAG sisters and brothers. Thus, Peter Morgan has to shoulder much of the promotion. Honestly, I’m fine with it – he answers questions about why he approached various royal stories in certain ways, and he even has some interesting stuff to say about Netflix and Prince Harry. Some highlights:
Putting “Diana’s ghost” into The Crown: For the record, the princess’s posthumous appearance is not meant to be supernatural. “I never imagined it as Diana’s ‘ghost’ in the traditional sense. It was her continuing to live vividly in the minds of those she has left behind. Diana was unique, and I suppose that’s what inspired me to find a unique way of representing her. She deserved special treatment narratively.”
He hasn’t covered Prince Andrew at all: “Haven’t gone anywhere near him,” admits Morgan, who says his focus has always been on the direct line of succession: Elizabeth, Charles, William. “I do little bits of dramatization of Harry but mainly only in relationship to William.”
On Prince Harry’s Spare: “I’ve not read a word of it. Not that I wouldn’t be interested. But I didn’t want his voice to inhabit my thinking too much. I’ve got a lot of sympathy with him, a lot of sympathy. But I didn’t want to read his book.”
Morgan says he’s never discussed the series with Harry: “I haven’t heard it from his lips. And I’ve never had the conversation with him about it.” (Ted Sarandos, too, has never discussed the show with Harry. “We keep a wall around this topic when we talk,” he says, “for obvious reasons.”)
The Crown leaves out a lot: “We once wrote down all the things that we hadn’t put in ‘The Crown. Speculation about paternity, affairs, this, that. It’s unbelievable, all we could have written.”
Prime ministers’ obsessions with QEII is a mother thing: “Yes. In part, it is. My mother was born in exactly the same year as the queen. So there were things that they had in common: a stoicism, a sort of uncomplainingness, a toughness. But no question.”
On the “tampon” call between Charles & Camilla: “My story was the story of privacy being shattered. My story was not the story of exploitation. You look at those two, you listen to what they’re saying, and you think, ‘Oh, my gosh. How sweet that people of that age … .’ Somehow, it’s only the sexual declarations of people in their early 20s that we find palatable. When people in their 50s express sexual love for one another, we all think it should be hidden away.”
On the criticism from real-life figures: “All the criticism about ‘The Crown’s’ attitude to the royals comes in anticipation of the show coming out. The minute it’s out and people look at it — whether it’s Judi Dench or John Major — they instantly fall silent. And I think they probably feel rather stupid.”
Stopping the show at 2005: “It was the cutoff to keep it historical, not journalistic,” he says. His rule of thumb is to leave a 10-year gap between past and present, but he doubled that for “The Crown.” “I think by stopping almost 20 years before the present day, it’s dignified.”
Whether he’s a republican or a monarchist: “I probably am a monarchist, but out of appreciation for what they do when they do it well. I think if we’re all adults, we would say that the system makes no sense and is unjust in the modern democracy. But I’m not sure Britain would be Britain without a monarchy. And in our agony of not being able to work out what we really think of them, we end up buying endless newspapers that treat them in the way that they do, none of which is helpful.”
He would consider a prequel: “I do have an idea. But first, I need to do some other things. Second, it would need a unique set of circumstances to come together.” Does it predate Elizabeth II? “Yes. If I were to go back into ‘The Crown,’ it would definitely be to go back in time.”
A prequel? Queen Victoria’s reign has been dramatized in various ways, but I could totally see a “Crown”-like treatment towards George V, Edward VIII and George VI. I also understand his decision to cut off the story at 2005, honestly – even though so much happened past that year, the history hasn’t been written and we don’t have all of the facts in evidence. I think he would enjoy Spare – maybe he’ll read it now that he’s done with The Crown. Also: it’s clear that he has some bizarre sympathy for Charles and Camilla in general, which is why he toes the line when it comes to Charles’s infidelities and makes it sound like Charles and Camilla were each other’s true loves, when really he was screwing around with multiple women for decades. Speaking of, you know what we haven’t heard anything about? Tiggy Legge-Bourke. Is Tiggy in the final season? Because there was absolutely a plot to convince Charles to marry Tiggy.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, cover courtesy of Variety.
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