Changes are made in every book-to-movie adaptation, and Red, White and Royal Blue is no different. However, director Matthew López was thinking about future generations of viewers when he made one change — swapping a queen for a king.
“Well, there were two reasons. One, I was trying to really differentiate as much as possible our fictional royal family from the actual royal family,” López, who cowrote the film with Ted Malawer, exclusively told Us Weekly.
Amazon Studios’ Red, White and Royal Blue tells the enemies-to-lovers story of the British Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) and Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), the son of the first female President of the United States (Uma Thurman). The fictional British royal family is steeped in tradition and King James III (Stephen Fry) makes it clear that he wants Henry to stay in the closet. Casey McQuiston‘s best-selling novel depicted similar circumstances — but with a character called Queen Mary.
López realized early on that he wanted to make the change, revealing they cast the role in fall 2021, one year before Queen Elizabeth II died at age 96. “While Her Majesty was still alive at the time, I also knew that for most of the life of this film, most people will access it while there is a King of England,” the director told Us. “Between King Charles, Prince William, Prince George — for most of our lifetime, there will always be King of England. And so, I wanted to sort of make sure that the film in some ways made sense to people for a hundred years.”
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There was one more very simple — and understandable — reason he had to trade the queen for a king. “I had a chance to get Stephen Fry in, and I just couldn’t turn that down. A lot of things went into that decision, and I think the most important one was Stephen Fry wanted to do it. You don’t say no to Stephen Fry,” López said with a chuckle.
Nor could he say no to adapting Red, White and Royal Blue. López read McQuiston’s debut novel shortly after it was published in 2020 at the recommendation of one of his agents. It didn’t take long for the Tony Award winner to connect with the material and determine he wanted to make his feature film directorial debut with RWRB.
“I fell madly in love with it, as most people who read it [do],” López told Us. “I fell madly in love with it — with the characters, the blissfully ridiculous situations that they find themselves in. And I just really wanted it. I can’t explain it other than to say that I just wanted to live in that world a little longer, and I really saw a movie, and so I put my hand up and really lobbied. I more than just put my hand up. I lobbied for the job, to make this film.”
He connected with Alex, the president’s son who has his own political aspirations. Alex is holding a grudge against Henry, and the pair have an altercation at the royal wedding that sends them tumbling into the cake. To do damage control after their “Buttercream Summit” photos go viral, their families and respective handlers force the two boys into a staged “truce” — which becomes all too real after Alex and Henry realize they have a lot more in common than they ever knew.
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When López was reading the book, it was Alex that really resonated with him.
“I think it has a lot to do with my connection to Alex as a character. I’m a biracial queer man from the American South. My mom’s white, my dad is Puerto Rican. Alex, his dad is Mexican. And so I think there’s an element of Alex … that I related to in my own way,” López shared. “I think that really was my in. I’d never read a book with a character like Alex at its center, and I’ve never seen a movie with a character like Alex at the center. I think there was something I really wanted to sort of help make sure that came into the world as intact as possible.”
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Red, White and Royal Blue debuts on Amazon Prime Friday, August 11.
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