David Michod’s new film The King, inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry V, premieres at the Venice Film Festival on Monday, starring Timothée Chalamet as Hal, the reluctant heir to the English throne, and Robert Pattinson, whom the director said he cast to add "fun" and "razzle-dazzle" to the Netflix movie.
When war threatens to bring down the kingdom, Hal must give up his hard-drinking ways and become a king overnight. Joel Edgerton, who co-wrote the script with Michod, stars as Hal’s mentor John Falstaff. Sean Harris, Ben Mendelsohn and Lily-Rose Depp co-star.
Although all actors are in top form, at an early morning press screening in Venice, Pattinson stole the show from the moment he appeared onscreen. With his outlandish garb and foppish accent, Pattinson drew laughter and applause in his role as the Dauphin of France, serving as the perfect foe to Chalamet’s earnest Henry V.
"I just had a feeling he would make it fun," said Michod. "I needed that. He is a supporting character. He doesn’t appear in the movie until an hour in. It was very, very important to me that when he did appear it was with razzle-dazzle."
Michod said that he and Edgerton did an enormous amount of research for the project. "And then we made a whole bunch of stuff up, too,” he said. “The upshot is I sit here now and I kind of honestly can’t remember what’s real, what’s made up and what’s from Shakespeare.”
He continued: "I think he was a bit of a dandy. I think he was quite a bit younger than Rob. Apparently he was hugely fat. Apparently it was historically true that Hal as king offered to fight him one-on-one to settle the score, probably knowing that his offer would be refused."
Michod, who cast Pattinson in his second film The Rover, praised the actor for his career decisions. "I loved working with him. I loved how inventive he was. I loved how hungry he was to make bold choices," said Michod. "I just had this feeling that he would love to sink his teeth into this character because it wasn’t like anything he’d done before."
Chalamet, meanwhile, said he was thrilled to take on a different kind of role in a film he described as being about the "manipulation of power." He discussed how as a 23-year-old he is still developing who he wants to be as an actor. "I feel that I’m really still learning, and I’m trying to chase whatever is the best version of an actor that I can be," he said.
Chalamet expressed his gratitude about working around more experienced actors on set, particularly with Mendelsohn and Harris. "There are things you learn and you could note to people,” he said, "and there are things you learn that just drift into the subconscious. These are two visceral actors. I’ve learned from everyone, but I’ve had particularly educational experiences with them."
Edgerton described shooting the intense battle scene in Hungary in 104 degree heat in armor over two weeks. "I just remember sitting there thinking, I'm glad David’s directing this and not me," he said. "I thought one day I was going to drown in the mud. And then one day I was fighting, and I realized I had mud all over my entire face. For some reason it just made me really happy. It’s one of my favorite photos from the whole shoot, which looked like someone just threw a pie in my face."
The King will have a limited theatrical release Oct. 11 before debuting on Netflix on Nov. 1.