Oscar Wilde (Stephen Fry) is a married writer who has occasionally indulged his weakness for male suitors. After much toil, Wilde debuts a stage comedy in London, and a chat at the theater with Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas (Jude Law) leads to a full-on romance. Wilde ends up in a legal dispute with Lord Alfreds father, the Marquess of Queensberry (Tom Wilkinson) and, given the anti-gay local laws, is sent to jail. Wildes vast intellect helps him survive until he regains his freedom.
Wilde is a 1997 British biographical film directed by Brian Gilbert with Stephen Fry in the title role. The screenplay by Julian Mitchell is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1987 biography of Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann.
The story of Oscar Wilde, genius, poet, playwright and the First Modern Man. The self-realisation of his homosexuality caused Wilde enormous torment as he juggled marriage, fatherhood and responsibility with his obsessive love for Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. After legal action instigated by Bosie's father, Wilde refused to flee the country and was sentenced to to two years at hard labour
The film opens with Oscar Wildes 1882 visit to Leadville, Colorado during his lecture tour of the United States. Despite his flamboyant personality and urbane wit, he proves to be a success with the local silver miners as he regales them with tales of Renaissance silversmith Benvenuto Cellini.
Wilde returns to London and weds Constance Lloyd (Jennifer Ehle), and they have two sons in quick succession. While their second child is still an infant, the couple hosts a young Canadian named Robbie Ross (Michael Sheen), who seduces Wilde and helps him come to terms with his homosexuality. On the opening night of his play Lady Windermeres Fan, Oscar is re-introduced to the dashingly handsome and openly foppish poet Lord Alfred Douglas (Jude Law), whom he had met briefly the year before, and the two fall into a passionate and tempestuous relationship. Hedonistic Alfred is not content to remain monogamous and frequently engages in sexual activity with rent boys while his older lover plays the role of voyeur.
Alfreds father, the Marquess of Queensberry (Tom Wilkinson), objects to his sons relationship with Oscar and demeans the playwright shortly after the opening of The Importance of Being Earnest. When Oscar sues the Marquess for criminal libel against him, his homosexuality is publicly exposed; he is eventually tried for gross indecency and sentenced to two years hard labour. In prison, he is visited by his wife, who tells him she isnt divorcing him but is taking their sons to Germany and that he is welcome to visit as long as he never sees Douglas again. Oscar is released from prison and goes straight into exile to continental Europe. In spite of the advice or objections of others, he eventually meets with Alfred.
Throughout the film, portions of the well-loved Wilde story The Selfish Giant are woven in, first by Wilde telling the story to his children, then as narrator, finishing the story as the film ends.Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde
Jude Law as Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas
Tom Wilkinson as John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry
Jennifer Ehle as Constance Lloyd Wilde
Gemma Jones as Sibyl Douglas, Marchioness of Queensberry
Judy Parfitt as Lady Mount-Temple
Michael Sheen as Robbie Ross
Vanessa Redgrave as Jane Francesca Agnes "Speranza", Lady Wilde
Zoe Wanamaker as Ada Leverson
Ioan Gruffudd as John Gray
Albert Welling as Arthur
In her review in the New York Times, Janet Maslin called the film "a broad but effectively intimate portrait" and added, "Playing the large dandyish writer with obvious gusto, Stephen Fry looks uncannily like Wilde and presents an edgy mixture of superciliousness and vulnerability. Though the film suffers a case of quip-lash thanks to its tireless Wildean witticisms . . . Frys warmly sympathetic performance finds the gentleness beneath the wit."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said the film "has the good fortune to star Stephen Fry, a British author, actor and comedian who looks a lot like Wilde and has many of the same attributes: He is very tall, he is somewhat plump, he is gay, he is funny and he makes his conversation into an art. That he is also a fine actor is important, because the film requires him to show many conflicting aspects of Wildes life . . . [He] brings a depth and gentleness to the role."
In the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas stated the film "has found a perfect Oscar in the formidably talented Stephen Fry . . . Coupled with Julian Mitchells superb script . . . and director Brian Gilberts total commitment to it and to his sterling cast, this deeply moving Wilde is likely to remain the definitive screen treatment of Oscar Wilde for years to come . . . Gilbert clearly gave Fry and Law the confidence to play roles that would require a baring of souls, and they are triumphant. . . Unfortunately, the film is marred by Debbie Wisemans trite, overly emotional score, which has the effect of needlessly underlining every point along the way that has otherwise been made so subtly. It is especially undermining in its morose tone in the films final sequences, when the pace naturally slows down as Wildes life enters its final phase. Everyone else involved in the making of Wilde has done an exemplary job illuminating a man and his era."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle called it "a sympathetic and, for the most part, nicely realized look into the private life of the flamboyant author" and commented, "Stephen Fry has the title role, and its hard to imagine a more appropriate actor . . . In the last third, the film derails somewhat by turning preachy . . . While [it] captures its subjects singular charm, it ultimately doesnt do justice to his complexity."
In the San Francisco Examiner, David Armstrong said the film "benefits from its lush period costumes and settings but gains even more from an accomplished cast of British film and stage actors . . . Stephen Fry . . . slips right under the skin of the title character [and] presents a multidimensional portrait of a complex man . . . However, Wilde, like Wilde, is flawed. Gilberts direction is sturdy but uninspired, and Ehles part is underwritten. To her credit, Ehle movingly conveys the sad frustration that Wilde implanted in his lonely wife; but Ehle has to do the work, playing her feelings on her face, with little help from Julian Mitchells screenplay."
Derek Elley of Variety observed, "Brian Gilbert, till now only a journeyman director, brings to the picture most of the qualities that were memorably absent in his previous costumer, Tom & Viv – visual fluency, deep-seated emotion and first rate playing from his cast."
In the Evening Standard, Alexander Walker called the film "an impressive and touching work of intelligence, compassion and tragic stature" and said Stephen Fry "returns to the top of the class with a dominating screen performance."
The film was released on DVD in 2002.
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama (Stephen Fry, Nominee)
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jennifer Ehle and Zoe Wanamaker, Nominees)
Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer (Jude Law, Nominee)
Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Technical/Artistic Achievement (Maria Djurkovic, Nominee)
GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film (Nominee)
Satellite Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama (Fry, Nominee)
Seattle International Film Festival Golden Space Needle Award for Best Actor (Fry, Winner)
Ivor Novello Award for Best Score (Debbie Wiseman, Winner)
The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960). Vanessa Redgrave appears in Wilde and Prick Up Your Ears. Brian Gilbert directed Wilde and Tom & Viv. Tom Wilkinson appears in Wilde and Stage Beauty. I Shot Andy Warhol (1996).