106 user 98 critic

Stage Beauty (2004)

2:25 | Trailer
A female theatre dresser creates a stir and sparks a revolution in seventeenth century London theatre by playing Desdemona in Othello. But what will become of the male actor she once worked for and eventually replaced?


Richard Eyre


Jeffrey Hatcher (play), Jeffrey Hatcher (screenplay)
3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Derek Hutchinson ... Stage Manager
Mark Letheren Mark Letheren ... Male Emilia / Dickie
Claire Danes ... Maria Hughes
Billy Crudup ... Ned Kynaston
Tom Wilkinson ... Thomas Betterton
Ben Chaplin ... George Villiers II - Duke of Buckingham
Hugh Bonneville ... Samuel Pepys
Jack Kempton Jack Kempton ... Call Boy
Alice Eve ... Miss Frayne
Fenella Woolgar ... Lady Meresvale
David Westhead ... Harry
Nick Barber ... Nick
Stephen Marcus ... Thomas Cockerell
Richard Griffiths ... Sir Charles Sedley
Zoë Tapper ... Nell Gwynn


Based in the 1660's of London's theaters, this film is about the rules of gender roles in theatre production, and means to change them for everyone's benefit. Ned Kynaston is the assumedly gay cross-dressing actor who has been playing female parts in plays for years, particularly Desdemona in Othello, he also has a close relationship with a member of the Royal Court, the Duke of Buckingham. One day however, the rules of only men playing women could change when aspiring actress Maria auditions as Kynaston's praised role, Desdemona, and soon enough, King Charles II decides to make the law that all female roles should be played only by women. Maria becomes a star, while Ned finds himself out of work. But after a while, Ned finds it in his nature to forgive Maria's aspiration, they may even fall in love, and Charles may proclaim women will be played by either gender. Written by Jackson Booth-Millard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She was the first of her kind. He was the last of his.




AL | See all certifications »



UK | USA | Germany



Release Date:

2 December 2004 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Belleza prohibida See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£128,035 (United Kingdom), 5 September 2004, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$38,654, 10 October 2004, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$776,691, 28 November 2004
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The full title of the stage play behind this movie is Compleat Female Stage Beauty, which was reportedly the advertising poster slogan for Kynaston's female impersonations. See more »


When Kynaston says, "I blame you for my death," he looks up at Maria, but in the next shot his head is back down. See more »


Ned Kynaston: I'm not teaching you how to be a woman. I'm teaching you how to be Desdemona.
See more »


Referenced in The Daily Show: Billy Crudup (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

Sexy, smart, romantic...a movie for actors and playwrights
4 May 2006 | by bondgirl6781See all my reviews

I had heard of the film through tadbloid and celebrity headlines of how Billy Crudup left his seven month pregnant girlfriend, Mary-Louise Parker, for Claire Danes. I wasn't interested in the film, but then my sister got the DVD for her birthday. I saw it for the first time over the week and I have been watching it over and over again. What a beautifully written story about acting, gender, theater, illusion, romance, and discovery of one's own identity. During the Restoration of England under the reign of King Charles II, women were finally given the freedom and right to perform on the stage whereas before the decree it was illegal and obscene for a woman to perform on stage.

Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup) is the greatest actor and the most beautiful "woman" of the English stage. He played several women's part and his most famous is the role of Desdemona in William Shakespeare's Othello. He is studied, admired, loved, and envied by his dress keeper, Maria (Claire Danes). She watches from the wings and longs to act and she does so behind Kynaston's back and in low pubs before a royal official, the Duke of Buckingham (Ben Chaplin). Then the chain of events unfold as Maria is introduced to Charles II (Rupert Everett) and his mistress Nell Gwyn (Zoe Tapper) who then declares that women will be given the freedom to perform in theater.

As Maria's fame rises and women are playing more and more of the female roles, Ned Kynaston (the last of his kind of actors) is casted aside. As an actor and as man, Kynaston had learned to suppress all masculinity in order to gain the grace and beauty of a woman. He knows only how to portray women and he is lost in learning to play male roles. But then again Maria is unable to play the role of Desdemona as a real woman. Both Kynaston and Maria fall in love and into passion as they learn from each other their own sexual identities and to channel their femininity and masculinity.

I fell in love with the film's story and with the performances of Billy Crudup and Claire Danes. As Kynaston, Crudup reveals vulnerability and strength as a man who discovers himself as a man (and a very hot one at that) through the role and eyes of being a woman. As Maria, Danes is beautiful and real: those tears are real! She can cry on cue and with the heartbreak of a real woman in love and envious of the man she loves. Maria is a strong, forthcoming, and in way a modern actress ahead of her time. She is not an "Eve" from All About Eve, she is a Viola Delesop from Shakespeare In Love, but real. The love scene between Danes and Crudup is sexy, tender, and passionate showing that explicit sex and nudity is not always necessary. They look into each other's sides and truly learn from each other as man and woman.

This is a highly recommended film for those who love acting, period pieces, or just if you want to see a really good film, "Stage Beauty" is very much the film to watch.

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