Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup) is the assumedly gay cross-dressing actor who has been playing female parts in plays for years, particularly Desdemona in ‘Othello’. He also has a close relationship with a member of Charles II’s Court, the Duke of Buckingham.
When an aspiring actress, Maria (Claire Danes), auditions for Kynaston's praised role, Desdemona, the King (Rupert Everett) decrees that all female roles should be played only by women. Maria becomes a star, while Ned finds himself out of work.
But after a while, Ned finds it in his nature to forgive Maria; they may even fall in love, and Charles may even proclaim that women can be played by either gender. The amazing cast includes Richard Griffiths, Tom Wilkinson, Edward Fox, and Hugh Bonneville as Samuel Pepys.
Hugh Bonneville writes: “My second film with director Richard Eyre. With echoes of ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ this is a romantic romp about the fickleness of theatre stardom, as women take to the stage for the first time after the Restoration. I remember a very warm day filming at Hatfield House: the corpulent Richard Griffiths in full costume, sweating in the heat of the long gallery, windows blacked out, candles lit, a portable air conditioning unit blowing at him on maximum power.”