Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh – who died April 9 at 99 – spent most of his life as a stalwart companion to his bride, who became Queen Elizabeth II unexpectedly in 1956. Through those many years, in addition to several documentaries where he appeared as himself, the prince was portrayed by a variety of actors in movies and television.
The most recent and high-profile depiction has been on Netflix’s hit series The Crown, where Philip was played at various ages by two different British actors, with a third upcoming in the series’ fifth and sixth seasons. An American was cast as Philip in The Queen, while one of his real-life friends took the reins in a 1982 TV movie for CBS. He was even portrayed in another TV movie by the actor who menaced Middle-earth as Saruman in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
Curious about how Hollywood sees Prince Philip? Here are the actors who’ve taken on the role over the years – and one who will play him in the near future.
The Crown: Matt Smith, Tobias Menzies, Jonathan Pryce, Finn Elliot
Despite being fiction, The Crown has done a lot in the past five years to make Americans and others feel like they know a bit about the royal family. Prince Philip was played by Matt Smith in the series’ first two seasons, followed by Tobias Menzies in the third and fourth. Jonathan Pryce will take the reigns as Philip in the coming fifth and sixth seasons. Also, Finn Elliot played a young Philip in three episodes of the show, across seasons two and three.
"He’s torn between the duty to his wife and a duty to himself,” Smith told the Los Angeles Times about his Philip character. "And I found that conflict very interesting to explore and play because he’s pulled in two different directions constantly. No other man in that period would kneel before his wife or walk 2 feet behind her. That was very difficult for him.”
The Queen: James Cromwell
James Cromwell, an American, played Philip opposite Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, a performance that won her an Oscar in 2007. The New York Times said Cromwell played Philip as a "dim bulb,” one of a cast of secondary characters who "prove especially crucial because it’s through their dealings with the queen, their awe and boobishness ..., that we start to get a handle on her.”
Cromwell was nominated for an Oscar in 1995 for Babe; he starred in HBO’s Six Feet Under and the movie L.A. Confidential, to name only a few of his many credits.
The Queen’s Corgi: Tom Courtenay
This is a weird one: In this 2019 animated European film, distinguished for the lousy reviews that resulted in a 0% critics score on website Rotten Tomatoes, British actor Tom Courtenay provided the voice of the Prince Philip character. In the film, the queen’s favourite corgi, Rex, a gift from Philip, gets sent to the pound and lost after – no lie – he accidentally flies into the crotch of President Trump during dinner with the royals.
"What should have been an easy cash-in – cute pups with a splash of Anglophilia thrown in – has somehow morphed into something deeply unpleasant, and in no way suitable for children,” the Independent wrote. Guessing nobody is mistaking this royal tale for the truth.
Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story: Christopher Lee
British actor Christopher Lee, who died in 2015, played Prince Philip in this 1982 ABC TV movie. Lee, typecast early in his career as a horror actor, was eventually better known for playing Saruman in the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit movies and Count Dooku in the Star Wars films. He was knighted in real life by Prince Charles in 2009.
The Royal Romance Of Charles And Diana: Stewart Granger
Stewart Granger, a British actor who died in 1993, was actually an old friend of Prince Philip, according to UPI. The news service said Granger enjoyed playing his royal pal in a 1982 TV movie on CBS.
Coming out a year after Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married, the movie reflected their relationship as a dream pairing; it even ended with a shot of Charles and Di cooing over a newborn Prince William. "All the project lacks is an irresistibly cute dog,” the New York Times said. – dpa