Royal Roundup: Madonna Film Shows ‘Kinder, Gentler’ Wallis Simpson

Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson and James D'Arcy as Edward VIII in 'W.E.'

More than seven decades after their distinctly anti-royal wedding, the romance between Edward VIII and American divorcée Wallis Simpson continues to fascinate.

One of those fascinated by the couple has been Madonna, who like Simpson, knows first-hand what it’s like to be an American celebrity in Britain. Madge has just written and directed her own movie, W.E., about a young, modern-day woman named Wally (played by Abbie Cornish) who becomes obsessed with the King (James D’Arcy) and the American divorcee (Andrea Riseborough).

W.E. will be screened at the Venice and Toronto film festivals.

“In England especially,” the Material Girl told Gus Van Sant in Interview magazine, “I’ve found that if you bring up King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson at a dinner party or a social gathering, it’s like throwing a Molotov cocktail into the room. Everyone erupts into an argument about who they were. I mean, they were very controversial — and continue to be. So of course I’m very attracted to that.”

The movie’s historical consultant, royal historian Hugo Vickers, said W.E. is a “kinder, gentler portrayal” of Simpson than most people will be used to. She’s often viewed negatively — just look at how she’s presented in The King’s Speech, on which Vickers was also a consultant. ”It is silly to portray her as a baddie,” Vickers told The Telegraph. ”If there was anyone who was a baddie it was Edward VIII.”

Still, Madonna has clearly “taken a few liberties with the historical record,” notes The Independent: “In the film, Mrs Simpson loses an unborn baby when she is assaulted by her first husband; King Edward spikes the drinks at a party to ‘ramp up the high-jinks factor’; and the former dances the twist for the latter as he lies on his deathbed. None of these incidents is believed to have occurred.”

There are reports that Harvey Weinstein, who picked up the movie a few months back, is in the process of re-cutting it.

In other royal related news:

• Word on the street is that Prince Harry is such a lover of the cosmos that he’s entertaining the idea of working with NASA for a future launch into outer space. And according to The Sun, the 26-year-old ginger prince has supposedly chatted up Sir Richard Branson‘s son Sam about possibly squeezing onto one of his dad’s first Virgin Galactic “sub-orbital flights.” But before he can do anything like that, Harry must complete a “minimum of 1,000 hours of advanced jet engine flight time to be considered by NASA.”

• While Dame Vivienne Westwood isn’t a fan of Kate Middleton‘s “ordinary” sense of style, American fashion designer Betsey Johnson is! She told HollywoodLife.com this week: “She’s so beautiful and I think she’s handling the whole kit & kaboodle so well.”

Toytown with Zara Phillips

• During last weekend’s Festival of British Eventing at her mother, Princess Anne‘s Gatcombe Park estate, Zara Phillips‘s had her final walk with her much-loved horse, Toytown. The world champion chestnut gelding retired after 18 years of competition, which saw him sustain several injuries. And the moment was quite an emotional one for the newlywed, The Daily Mail reports. “I think it will be quite difficult,” Phillips said of Toytown’s retirement. “It’s the end of an era. He was the horse of a lifetime for me. We grew up together, we went through the levels together, and it all just seemed to go our way. His movement, his character, it all combined to make the complete horse. And cross-country, he was just a machine.”

She continued: “I don’t think I am ever going to find another horse quite like him, but hopefully others that will be good enough to go to the same level as he did.”