as Eleanor of Aquitaine in THE LION IN WINTER (1968)
Christmas 1183. An aging and conniving King Henry II plans a reunion where he hopes to name his successor. He summons the following people for the holiday: his scheming but imprisoned wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine; his mistress, Princess Alais, whom he wishes to marry; his three sons (Richard, Geoffrey, and John), all of whom desire the throne; and the young but crafty King Philip of France. With the fate of Henry's empire at stake, everybody engages in their own brand of deception and treachery to stake their claim.
"Just what you want, a king for a son. You can make more, I can't. You think I want to disappear? One son is all I've got, and you can blot him out and call me cruel? For these ten years you've lived with everything I've lost, and loved another woman through it all, and I am cruel? I could peel you like a pear and God himself would call it justice!"
- Eleanor of Aquitaine
Katharine Hepburn received her eleventh Oscar nomination and third win for her portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the estranged wife of King Henry II, whom he keeps locked in the Salisbury Tower at Windsor Castle. She is invited for Christmas 1183 to discuss about who should inherit the throne. Eleanor of Aquitaine is a very strong-minded and determined woman, as Katherine Hepburn was in her real life, which made her cast in the film completely perfect. The character is very well-written and goes deeper and deeper through the film. It is way more complicated and heartbreaking than it looks at first sight. Katharine Hepburn adds a lot of humor to Eleanor, and it’s a pure joy to see that she really understands her character. Eleanor of
Aquitaine is very cynical, bitter, but also very manipulative and avid. She is very determined to see her “favorite” son on the throne, so she will do everything possible to see that. She reveals herself to be also very jealous, very subtly, we feel it just with her way to look at Henry and Alais (his mistress). Katharine Hepburn’s look is transparent, tearful, allowing us to see all her emotions. Step by step, the character becomes more and more emotional, she reveals she can't stand to be a prisoner anymore. This scene is painful and very well-interpreted by Hepburn. She appears damaged and Hepburn brings a lot of vulnerability and complexity to humanize her character. She embodies the Queen larger than life, she is very effective in her way to stand and her way to speak. She graciously manages to say the worst things in the most charming way. Katharine Hepburn is very compelling and mesmerizing, her skills are endless, she has always something new to impress us. She doesn’t push the boundaries, because she has no boundaries: She can do everything. She is clearly helped by her partners, the screenplay which is amazing, and the most brilliant lines from the script allowing her to steal every scene she is in. The duo Hepburn/O’Toole, who is incredibly brilliant, works very well on screen. The game, because it’s a game between them is humorous, ferocious and in many ways touching.
"One of the most revered films of all time...with hallmark performances from Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn and the film debuts of Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton, Nigel Terry and John Castle."
- Washington Post
Katharine Hepburn gives a very layered performance. She is chilling, captivating, intense, complicated, powerful, authentic, poignant, raw, convincing, independent, angry, jealous, manipulative, ambiguous etc. Katharine Hepburn puts together a very detailed characterization of a very complex and powerful woman, and gives a first rate performance.