1876: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO LEOPOLD
"Marriage is a promise of eternal love. As a man of honor, I cannot promise eternally what I have never felt momentarily. "
"I am accustomed to stand when a woman leaves the table. "
"Where I come from, a meal is the result of reflection and study. It's said without the culinary arts, the crudeness of reality would be unbearable. "
"Life is not solely composed of tasks, but tastes. "
2001: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO KATE
"Just give me the numbers, give me the bottom line, give me the truth, straight up - no chaser"
"To them, a guy like that is a dream. Handsome. Honest. Courteous. If you eat his margarine, maybe your hips will shrink and he'll come to your door. "
"You can't live a fairy tale. "
"I've been paying dues all of my life, and I'm tired, and I need a rest and if I have to sell a little pond scum to get it, then so be it!"
INTRODUCING KATE & LEOPOLD
"A gentleman is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd"
- John Henry Crawford, 19th century philosopher on the ideal gentleman-
In the Victorian Age, men and women attempted to act as perfect gentlemen and ladies, following precise conventions of courtship and public behavior. It was a time of dramatic gestures, grand fantasies and great leisure, when how one conducted oneself and revealed one's innermost values were more important than anything else.
In today's Digital Age, relations between men and women have become as fast-paced, high-tech, competitive and volatile as life itself - and civility and grace have taken a back-seat to contemporary notions of individuality, practicality and success.
So what would a 21st century realist think of a true 19th century romantic? And could love cross that cultural divide?
Meg Ryan's Kate gets a chance to find out in Kate & Leopold (2002), a modern-day fable that explores what has been lost and gained in over a century of drastic change in ideals of romance. One of the delights of their romantic pairing is that both are smart, savvy people at the very top of their respective cultures, but they each discover that love is not at all what they think. It's what they feel.
The potential for sparkling comedy and moving romance in KATE & LEOPOLD (2002) inspired director and co-writer James Mangold to take a chance and do something he had never done before: create a love story in the style of American films from the 40's and 50's in which the characters' snappy dialogue and humorous behavior are front and center. It is also a place where whole worlds can be spanned by a single caress or simple kiss.
Mangold, who had previously explored the film genres of drama and action with creative vigor, now wanted to make a romance in the great Hollywood tradition, about a man and a woman bridging the often-comic gulf that divides the sexes. He found himself intrigued by giving that theme a new, time-warp twist - with the story of how a woman burnt-out on modern dating would react to a sophisticated Victorian gentleman, and vice versa.
"I was really curious about looking at notions of civility and chivalry from today's viewpoint. What would happen if a contemporary woman came face-to-face with a gentleman of the highest order," he asks. "In a larger sense, I also saw the story as being about the complicated relationship between idealism and romance. Compromise has become so much a part of our lives and, in a lot of ways, fantasy has disappeared from today's courtships. I thought it would be really wonderful to make a comedy that points out the contrast between what we think is possible in relationships, and what we ultimately hope for in our hearts. "
He continues: "I'm a huge fan of romantic comedies, particularly the comedies of the forties and fifties: Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, etcetera. I had no idea whether I'd be good at writing one of these films, but Cathy (Konrad) had an instinct I might expand my range with this. "
On developing the script, producer Konrad says: "I've been in love with this script for seven years. I hadn't seen a movie like this in a long time, one that combined romance, comedy and fantasy all in one picture. I also loved the questions the script asked about the roles we play. Is it a good thing that chivalry is dead? Or has something important been lost along the way? I loved that in the character of Kate there was longing for a more fulfilling life despite the appearance that she has it all together. And I loved the way that Leopold's arrival forces these issues to the surface. "
She continues: "Leopold helps Kate to connect to the simple pleasures in life, and she helps him to fulfill what he thought were impossible dreams. It's a fairy-tale pairing. "
Mangold and Konrad agreed from the beginning that one of the most important elements in the movie would be creating an authentic sense of the 19th century gentleman and the 21st century career woman - and they knew, in the end, that this would hinge on the casting. "We didn't want a cast of comedians. I'm tired today's formula sketch comedies," says Mangold. Adds Konrad: "We needed gifted actors capable of both comedy and drama, and that became our quest. "
Finding Kate & Leopold:
MEG RYAN and HUGH JACKMAN
"The greatest man would be justly considered a brute if he were not civil to the meanest woman. "
- Martine's Behavior Handbook, 1806-
To find their Kate McKay, the filmmakers of KATE & LEoPOLD (2002) searched for an actor who could make the transformation from die-hard realist to won-over romantic in short order. They tapped into that protean ability in Meg Ryan, who has proven her talent to switch from comedy to drama to romance and back again with continued success.
"Meg is an incredibly talented dramatic actress who also possesses a unique gift for comedy," notes Mangold. "She gets the rhythms, verbal and physical, of comic acting and knows how to put those skills to work on the set - not merely to garner laughs for her own character, but often getting laughs for the 'straight man. '"
He continues: "You see, in many ways the sexual roles were flipped in this film. Unlike most films of this genre, the man, Leopold is the romantic, and the woman, Kate, is the cynic. Meg plays a driven corporate climber who, at least externally has given up on ideals and dreams of love. I think this edge in Kate is something new for Meg. Her character spends her life dissecting fairy tales and reducing them to formulae, yet the circumstances of the story force her to confront a fairy tale head on
Ryan was fascinated by Kate's complexity. "What I love about Kate is that she has these two different sides to her. At home, she's heartbroken and lonely, and yet to the outside world she's this dynamic businesswoman who's got it together," she notes. " I love the contrast of that. And in that context, it's no wonder Leopold doesn't make sense to Kate. He's so gracious and gentlemanly, she's convinced he's another manufactured fantasy that will leave her feeling empty. But of course, she's blown away when she realizes he's the real thing. "
Mangold was delighted by Ryan's depiction of a ladder-climbing executive who is hiding a lot more underneath her tailored business-suit. "Meg's Kate is someone who is dying for something honest, for something true, and yet at the same time she has to play the games we all have to play in order to get ahead in the rate race," he observes. "Meg really let's the core of Kate be revealed. "
Adds Cathy Konrad: "Meg has the skills to carry off the pratfalls of physical comedy, but she combines that with a shining intelligence. We're used to seeing her as the girl-next-door type but here she's someone more sophisticated, more urban, a little more cynical until this surprise man comes into her life and gets her spinning in an entirely new direction. "
Ryan was equally excited about working with Mangold. She comments: "I trusted Jim implicitly. He's a real actor's director and so smart. He included everybody in the process and made us feel empowered. He did everything that I think a strong director needs to do - he had great ideas and was able to elevate them simply and clearly. "
In the end, Meg Ryan sees Kate as someone who at last finds the courage to dash her reliance on tangible realities and go after a dream. "She finally decides to go all the way for love and makes the switch from head logic to heart logic. She literally takes a leap," observes Ryan. "She might be the quintessential modern woman but I think she discovers that deep down inside true love is timeless. "
To have Kate make that discovery, the filmmakers knew they would need an equally believable Leopold - no simple task given Leopold's 19th century way of talking in grand poetic statements. What actor could carry that off believably? Happily, the filmmakers found their man in the relative newcomer Hugh Jackman, the latest screen import from Down Under, who evinced an unmistakably royal stature and heartfelt honesty.
Explains Mangold: "Hugh is an amazing actor and entirely unique in this day and age. He just has the essence of great movie stars of the past. There are times that you can see Errol Flynn or Cary Grant in him. " Adds Konrad: "We wanted someone entirely fresh, someone the audience could discover along with Meg, someone who would open up a new world to them. Hugh does that because there are no preconceived notions about him. He comes off as completely authentic, utterly desirable, and the chemistry between him and Meg is palpable. "
Hugh Jackman was attracted to the story's classic mixture of screwball humor and romantic feeling. "I thought it had a wonderfully charming, sweet and funny nature that was unlike most movies you see today," he says. "To me, it's a reminder of the idea that the bottom line in love is treating one another with real care and respect. The question behind the humorous premise of KATE & LEOPOLD (2002) is this: in this savvy, liberated modern world of ours can true romance still exist? Clearly, we've come a long way since Leopold's time, and he is quite impressed by that, but perhaps we've lost a little of the fun and whimsy of love as a form of adoration. "
Mangold also wanted Jackman to capture a sense of excitement about the future, an intense curiosity that would make his journey in the 21st century completely plausible. "Leopold was living in a time right before tremendous change, and he was anxious to be part of those changes," he explains. "He's an inventor, a man who feels hemmed in by the present, so when he finds himself in the future, there is a real sense of him fulfilling his dream. Hugh's ability to convey both Leopold's awe and understanding of our current lifestyles made him a very unique character, one who spends less time gawking 'fish-out-of-water' style and more time interacting with what's around him. "
Jackman immersed himself in the customs and style of Victoriana to get a real sense of how a man such as Leopold, Duke of Albany, would behave socially and especially with a lady for whom he has strong feelings. Jackman took etiquette lessons, studied ballroom dancing and even trained to ride a horse in order to develop the well-rounded skills of a typical well-bred 19th century gentleman. He even practiced sitting on his hands while talking because hand gestures, common today, were considered the height of rudeness during Victorian conversation.
Along the way, he learned some fascinating lessons. "In Leopold's time, the things that were really revered were the art of conversation, an excellent education, the ability to ride a horse, a talent for playing music and most of all, an appreciation for the truly fine things in life," he explains. "Looking at life through Leopold's eyes, and taking things at Leopold's much slower pace, was very revealing to me. Most of all I took away a real sense of his dignity, of how he does everything with the fullness of his heart, which nowadays is so hard to accept without thinking it's phony. But with Leopold, it's all just part of the art of life. "
He continues: "Of course, with women, men in those times were expected to protective and almost stiflingly polite. But what Leopold discovers is that in a 21st century world of more freedom, he finally can see a woman's full power, sensuality and intelligence, and that allows him to fall in love for the first time. In Kate, he finds a woman that to him is like a miracle - the first woman he's ever met free enough to be herself. "
For Meg Ryan, Jackman had a palpable impact on her portrayal of Kate. "Hugh really is a gentleman," she comments. "He brings the grace and charm of the character completely alive. Through Hugh, we see the possibilities for love that Kate has pretty much given up on. "
CASTING KATE & LEOPOLD'S SUPPORTING CHARACTERS
"If you are going to be in the presence of a lady, beware of onions, spirits and tobacco. "
- The Art of Good Behavior, 1845-
KATE & LEOPOLD (2002) is filled with characters who just can't seem to manage their romantic dreams, or even their lives. These include Kate's hilarious brother Charlie, played by Breckin Meyer, an out-of-work single actor who gets a clue or two about women from Leopold. In fact, it is Charlie who winds up translating Leopold's chivalrous rules into his own 21st century expressions.
"Charlie is a great role," Meyer admits. "He's funny, he's high energy and yet there's something very real about him. And when he starts to see the world through Leopold's eyes, everything shifts for him. "
In fact, Meyer saw his challenge as revealing a contemporary man's reaction to Leopold's Victorian point-of-view. "At first, Charlie just sees Leopold as this hunky guy who will help him get women," Meyer admits. "But Leopold shows him how to drop the fašade, how to speak from the heart and how to enjoy life one minute at a time. He gives Charlie the confidence to be honest about who he is and to stop trying to cover himself up with attitude. Charlie soaks up Leopold's way of looking at life and makes it work for him in today's world. "
Providing the initial bridge between Leopold's world and ours is Kate's unreliable ex, the renegade scientist Stuart, played by Liev Schreiber. Although Schreiber's Stuart is mostly concerned with relativity and rips in the space-time fabric, Schreiber sees the real story as lying in the emotional transformations of the characters. "This is a movie about finding one's place in the world and in time," he comments. "Kate and Leopold are both searching for their places, which they find with one another, and Stuart hopefully finds his as well. "
As for Schreiber, he feels drawn to both time periods that Stuart traverses. "You know I'm a gadget hound and I love the 21st century," he admits, "but at the same time I think I yearn for something of that era when time was considered more precious, when there was more formality and structure and romance. I think we all wonder about who we would be in a different time
One character drawn to old-fashioned romance despite the rigors of modern reality is Kate's office assistant Darci, played by Natasha Lyonne. Lyonne enjoyed the contrast between her character and Meg Ryan's Kate: "I thought it was very funny that you have Meg's character, my boss, who is so cynical and yet predestined to be involved in an epic romance and then you have my character, a die-hard romantic caught in the business world, who is trying to get Kate to open her eyes. " Lyonne found her own romantic instincts awakened by her first meeting with Hugh Jackman in the role of Leopold. "He was such a gentleman and so sweet, I have to admit I was immediately suspicious," she says. "But of course he won me over. I'm not really an obsessive romantic, but this chivalry stuff is pretty overwhelming. "
One character definitely not overwhelmed by Leopold's charms is Kate's boss, J. J. , who views Kate as a woman without delusions. Bradley Whitford, who moves to the big screen from his popular role on "The West Wing," sees J. J. as having a secret motivation when it comes to Kate. "I actually think that even thought he's an arrogant, morally bankrupt bastard, he genuinely feels something for Kate," says Whitford. "That makes things quite tricky for him. "
While J. J. might not take Leopold seriously at first, Bradley Whitford sees the character as indicative of something both modern men and women desire. "We've started to take for granted a certain lifestyle that allows for vulgarity, rudeness and treating one another poorly - and Leopold sheds a certain light on that," he notes. "Obviously, a lot of things in modern times are much better than they were back then, but there's something interesting about getting a chance to jump back in time and maybe taking something useful away from that. "
KATE & LEOPOLD'S NEW YORK: THE FILM'S DESIGN
"The feast, the dance, the social glass have often wrought ruin to the pure and good man"
- Hill's Forms, 1873-
KATE & LEOPOLD (2002) takes place in two very different New York's: one a rapidly changing Victorian landscape of old-fashioned ballrooms and newfangled skyscrapers and bridges; the other a contemporary urban megalopolis lined with nightclubs, restaurants and every possible convenience and temptation.
From the beginning, Mangold wanted to capture New York's past and present in a fresh way. "I didn't want to make a movie about how beautiful the past was and how ugly everything is now," says the director. "I wanted to show how Leopold sees the beauty of a city that we take for granted. He sees the glory in these modern-day apartments and majestic office buildings, in our elevators and escalators, our toasters and fax machines. "
Mangold continues: "But we also wanted to reflect that New York is an old city. Many things haven't changed at all since Leopold's time, you can walk into the same building in 2001 that someone walked into in 1876 - it's amazing that the structures our ancestors built a century ago continue to be useful today. Think of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was built in the day of the horse-and-buggy. Now vans, cars and semis roar across it. "
vTo bring his two contrasting visions of Kate and Leopold's New York to life, Mangold brought together a special artistic team that includes production designer Mark Friedberg and director of photography Stuart Dryburgh, who received an Oscar nomination for his work on "The Piano. " Friedberg summarizes the challenge: "We had to create and weave together impressions of an old society New York, a very high-end contemporary New York, and an artsy downtown New York, into one very fun and romantic visual style. "
For executive producer Kerry Orent, this brand new view of New York was key to turning KATE & LEOPOLD (2002) into a "very original urban fable. " "I've shot a lot of movies in New York, but the idea of creating fantasy sets on real New York locations was very exciting," he says. "It's a very ambitious idea but Jim Mangold had a such a clear and bold vision of what he wanted from the start - a look the combines a sort of 'Age of Innocence' elegance with the fun, stylish Manhattan of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' a look that is not just about past and present, but about what endures. "
First, Mark Friedberg found himself diving into fascinating research about New York at the beginning of the Gilded Age - a time when, even before the invention of the automobile, ambitious city designers were creating such monuments as the Brooklyn Bridge; and a time, indeed, when the proliferation of skyscrapers led to the widespread use of another brand-new invention: the elevator. Says Friedberg: "We didn't want to romanticize the past but to show how in many ways it was similar to today. I was really fascinated to discover that life in the late 1800s was actually very cosmopolitan and America was on the cusp of a technological revolution," he notes. "It was somewhat similar to our current digital age. "
One of Friedberg's biggest challenges was recreating the original construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. As he observes: "Luckily, the bridge came along just about the same time as photography was being widely introduced. So there are lots of photographs, made available by the New York Historical Society, the Library of Congress and private collections, that we were able to access. " Friedberg worked closely with visual effects supervisor Robert Stromberg who used matte paintings and CGI work to render a pristine Brooklyn Bridge against a backdrop of 1870's Manhattan. He also wound up building an authentic full-scale base of the bridge in one of his most ambitious sets. "Watching Mark Friedberg develop the Brooklyn Bridge set from toothpick models to a set you could actually leap from was incredibly exciting," comments Cathy Konrad.
When it came to creating Kate's contemporary Manhattan, Friedberg's most challenging set was the apartment building where Leopold first encounters modern times - and his feelings for Kate. Mangold and Friedberg came up with the idea of forging a world in which people literally live on top of one another, ever-connected by a fire escape, and can eavesdrop on each other's lives. "Close living quarters is one of the absurdities of modern life, and it's something that would fascinate Leopold," observes Friedberg. "We saw the set as being a kind of 21st century combination of 'The Odd Couple' and 'Rear Window. '"
In the end, Friedberg most hoped his designs would suit KATE & LEOPOLD (2002)'s unique mix of whimsical romance and comic social observation. "I am always interested in being historically accurate, but James Mangold pushed us to think first about making a beautiful fairy tale," he explains. "The result is a real sense of romantic fantasy as well as a dash of history. "
As the shoot progressed, the film's cast and crew moved from well-preserved Brooklyn Heights and funky downtown to the high floors of the General Motors building in the heart of Manhattan, where Kate's marketing offices were created. It was director of photography Stuart Dryburgh's challenge to capture it all with a look that would, as he puts it, "give a sense of the city through Leopold's wide open eyes. " Rather than rely on such typical conventions as sepia filters to connote the movement from 19th century to 21st century and back again, Dryburgh relied on a creative use of color and textures. Throughout it all, the city provided dozens of different moods and styles to inspire Dryburgh's vision. "New York City is probably the most fantastic city in which to shoot," he states, "and this was a wonderful opportunity to look at the city in a different way. "
Also juxtaposing the modern with the nostalgic was costume designer Donna Zakowska, who found the film a rare chance to work in two very distinct periods at the same time. She explains the concept for both Leopold's and Kate's eras: "For Leopold's era, we wanted a real sense of fantasy, of glamorous clothing that seems like something out of a fairy tale yet also could be real. It was a time of complex bustles and bows whereas Kate's look is much more about minimalism. In dressing Meg we wanted to give her kind of a suit of armor because she's very much in a man's world, but we also wanted a silhouette that would capture her character. Her clothes are very simple and tailored, without a lot of details or ornaments. This makes for a tremendous contrast with Leopold's world where decorative details are just exploding. When Meg enters his world, she's truly a vision. "
In the end, Mangold encouraged his entire creative team to span the two worlds of Kate and Leopold and yet, like the romantic pair, define the special place where they meet. "It's not often that you have a fairy tale that's both an adventure in the 1800's and comedy in the 21st century," says Mangold.
KATE & LEOPOLD: STING's TALE OF LOVE
To compliment KATE & LEOPOLD (2002)'s tale of love across time, the filmmakers wanted a song that might evoke the sudden, disorienting passion between 21st century Kate and 19th century Leopold. They approached the one artist they knew had the musical and lyrical sensibilities for the challenge: STING.
STING attended a screening of KATE & LEOPOLD (2002) and was immediately won over. "With everything that's going on in the world right now, with war and terrorism around us, to watch a romantic film - a beautiful romantic film - that's funny and light, just carried me away," he recalls. "The filmmaker told me they wanted a romantic song to match the tone and I said: I'm your man. "
As he pondered the film's themes, STING found himself inspired to write something different from the standard pop single - instead, he penned a lush, modern tune based on the classic rhythms of the waltz. "Waltzes are romantic and old-fashioned but beautiful," he comments. "And to the waltz, I added lyrics about time and love and trying to make a moment last longer that you though it possibly could. "
"UNTIL . . . "
If I caught the world in a bottle
Was still beneath the moon
Without your love would it shine for me?
If I was smart as Aristotle
And understood the rings around the moon
What would it matter if you loved me?
Here in your arms
Where the world is impossibly still
With a million dreams to fulfill
And a matter of moments until
The dancing ends
Here in your arms
Where everything seems to be clear
Not a solitary thing do I fear
Except when this moment comes near
The dancing’s end
If I caught the world in an hourglass
Saddled up the moon
So we could ride until
The stars grew dim
Until . . .
One day you meet a stranger
And all the noise is silenced in the room
You’ll know that you’re close to a mystery
In the moonlight
when everything shatters
You’ll feel as if you’ve known her all your life
The world’s oldest lesson in history
The Language of Flowers
"The orange lily implies extreme hatred. The begonia and lavender, danger and suspicion . . . every flower has a meaning. "
- Advice from Leopold on sending flowers-
Today if you want to send a loved one flowers, you just run to the corner florist and pick up a colorful bouquet. But in Victorian times, flowers were carefully and creatively chosen by male suitors to convey secret messages all on their own, allowing a man to declare his love, or confusion thereof, without resorting to the uncouth nature of the spoken word.
It was known as "the language of flowers" and this charming custom became quite popular in the 19th century, with guides being published to the individual meanings, and associated emotions, of each different type and color of bud. Creating a bouquet could become a poetic event, filled with subtle suggestions and flattery. Even weeds were assigned precise definitions - and the recipient usually knew exactly what a man's bouquet meant!
Below are a few flowers and their 19th century meanings:
Amaryllis: "Splendid beauty"
Bachelor's Button: "Celibacy"
Red Carnation: "My poor heart"
Cabbage Rose: "I come as an Ambassador of Love"
Christmas Rose: "Tranquilize my anxiety"
Clematis: "Mental beauty"
White Chrysanthemum: "Truth"
Hyacinth: "I'd like to play"
Peony: "Shame" or "I'm shy"
White Rose: "I am worthy of you"
Yellow Rose: "I am jealous" or "My love for you has decreased"
Blue Violet: "I will be faithful"
Water Lily: "Purity of heart"