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Why Tom Hollander Plays Three Different Characters

In The King’s Man, actor Tom Hollander is playing three different characters as a joke about the European royal families of the early 20th century.

In The King’s Man, actor Tom Hollander plays three different characters as a joke about the European royal families of the early 20th century. Directed by Matthew Vaughn from a script he co-wrote with Karl Gajdusek, The King’s Man is a prequel to Vaughn’s two earlier Kingsman movies, Kingman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. The premise of the films didn’t originate with Vaughn, however, and are instead loose adaptations of the comic series The Secret Service, created by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. Vaughn still very much puts his mark on the material, with The King’s Man marking his biggest departure from the comics yet.

The King’s Man explores the origins of the secret intelligence organization, Kingsman. It’s set during a real historical period, World War I, and stars Ralph Fiennes as the Duke of Oxford and Harris Dickinson as the young man he mentors, Conrad, in what’s clearly the prototype for the relationship shared by Colin Firth’s Harry Hart and Taron Egerton’s Eggsy in the first two Kingsman movies. Given its historical setting, the prequel uses actual world events as the backdrop for its origin story, and as such, includes characters based on real people. Rhys Ifans and Daniel Brühl play Grigori Rasputin and Felix Yusupov, respectively, while Tom Hollander plays all three roles of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and King George V of England.

Related: King’s Man Almost Got Rasputin’s Death Right (But Needlessly Changed It)

The three characters Hollander plays in The King’s Man were at the very heart of the conflict leading to WWI, which saw England and Russia join with France against the alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. However, along with their position as leaders of their warring nations, these men were also all cousins. Tom Hollander’s triple The King’s Man casting, then, acts as both a joke and a more legitimate critique.

The Joke Behind The King’s Man’s Tom Hollander Casting

The Real George V Willhem II Nicholas II
George V of England, Willhelm II of Germany, and Nicholas II of Russia.

George V was the first cousin of both Wilhelm II and Nicholas II, since two of George V’s aunts, Victoria and Maria Feodorovna, were their mothers. Willhelm II and Nicholas II were also third cousins, related through their shared great-grandparents, Tsar Paul I of Russia and his wife, Sophie Dorothea. The decision to cast Hollander to play each man is a joke about the close family relations between the various European royal families of the time and the inbreeding that had been happening for generations.

The King’s Man‘s casting of the same actor to play the leaders of England, Germany, and Russia illustrates how the film has fun with its historical setting. The movie sticks to facts by choosing to represent the close family ties that did actually exist between the royal families of Europe during World War I. But The King’s Man also makes a joke of those close family ties by going so far as to make the monarchs of each country identical to one another (some differently styled facial hair aside). Then again, Nicholas II and George V do look eerily similar to one another, so having them played by the same actor in The King’s Man isn’t so off-base that it’s entirely implausible.

Tom Hollander’s The King’s Man Triple Casting Isn’t Only A Joke

Kaiser Wilhelm screaming in The King's Man

Hollander playing all three roles of George V, Wilhelm II, and Nicholas II (the head of the slaughtered Romanov family) is a joke made at the expense of the noble class in more ways than one. Beyond being merely a sight-gag about inbreeding, it also lobs a more serious critique at European leadership around the time of World War I. The unprecedented violence and bloodshed of the First World War wreaked havoc on Europe and cost millions of innocent people their lives, but it all happened largely due to the hubris and entitlement of a small group of social elites. The fact that the same actor plays the three European monarchs responsible for WWI underscores the ludicrousness of placing one family in control of a whole continent and letting personal squabbles escalate into full-scale war. George V, Wilhelm II, and Nicholas II had more in common than mere genetics, as they all had similar flaws as leaders. While the Kingsmen franchise has a largely comedic tone, it does also have a history of satirizing real life to highlight social ills, and The King’s Man is no exception, as Tom Hollander’s triple casting illustrates. Every good joke has its foundation in truth.

Next: The King’s Man’s Credits Scene Explained: Is It A Joke?

  • The King’s Man (2021)Release date: Dec 22, 2021

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