At least three actresses will portray the Queen in a £100 million, epic television drama spanning her more than six decades on the throne.
The marathon series, featuring more than 20 hours of viewing, is being penned by Peter Morgan, who wrote the film The Queen, for which Helen Mirren won a Bafta and an Oscar with her landmark portrait of Elizabeth II.
The first few episodes of what will be known as The Crown will be shaped by Stephen Daldry, who directed Morgan’s stage play The Audience, which again starred Mirren as Her Majesty.
Ageless icon: The then Princess Elizabeth in 1951, left, and looking radiant in blue in 2014
It’s a mammoth undertaking that kicks off in1947, when the then Princess Elizabeth married Phillip.
The series will chart the monarch’s reign from the moment she heard of her father George VI’s death, on February 6, 1952, while on a tour of Kenya.
She returned home as Queen, although her Coronation was held a year later at Westminster Abbey.
Morgan will chronicle the private, political and social successes and upheavals that occurred during her decades as sovereign.
Casting The Crown will take months. Elizabeth ascended the throne at 26, and photos from the early Fifties show a young woman of bewitching beauty.
So, one actress will portray her at that age, possibly into her 30s. Someone else will take over to play her from 30 to 40, and another will portray her into her 60s.
What’s being mulled over now is whether that third actress will cover her through to 90 — which is how old she’ll be when the programme is broadcast in 2016 — or whether someone else will cover the years from 70 onwards.
The Queen pictured in Clarence House in July 1951. Three actresses will play the Monarch in the 20-hour series
‘The actresses will have to be British, because I don’t think people will countenance the Queen being played by a foreigner — and I mean no offence when I say that,’ an executive with close links to The Crown told me.
‘There will be hundreds and hundreds of roles to be cast, from prime ministers to international leaders such as the U.S. presidents she has met.
‘And probably Nelson Mandela will be in there, too.
‘And don’t forget Prince Philip — that’s going to be a huge role for an actor, or more likely several. People will play Charles, Diana, Camilla, William, Kate . . . the whole lot of them,’ said the film and television executive.
The BBC and ITV were involved in a high-level battle to secure rights to the series, but they have been scooped by Netflix, which is about to sign a deal to premiere the show in the UK and around the world.
UK broadcasters will now negotiate to see who gets the rights to screen the programme, produced by Andy Harries (one of those behind The Queen and The Audience) and Sony Pictures Television, after Netflix has finished with them.
The word ‘epic’ kept being used, and when I ventured to suggest that the budget would be in the region of £100 million, my source retorted: ‘Good luck if they can do this for £100 million!
‘I think you’ll find it’s going to cost a bit more than that, but for now, call it £100 million.
‘It’s impossible to get across to you the scale of The Crown without getting myself sent to the Tower for telling you too much.’
I think I get that The Crown will make Her Maj the icon of icons.
All deals are still being sorted.