Character study for a feature film
SIR BUCKINGHAM is played by veteran British actor of both stage and screen, Sir Geoffrey Cornwallish. Cornwallish has been openly gay his entire professional life, and has been cited as a major influence by later generations as a role model in their search for sexual acceptance. Cornwallish (think Ian McKellen) is a classically trained Shakespearean actor, and has “walked the boards” with the likes of Lawrence Olivier, Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole. While his skills as a thespian are impeccable, he has always felt that most film, and all television (especially American television) were beneath him. The actor now only answers to Sir Geoffrey, not Geoffrey, not Mr. Cornwallish, and certainly not Geoff.
Cornwallish agrees to accept the part of SIR BUCKINGHAM for two reasons:
Number one, he has always lived extravagantly and above his means, and while theater has never quite afforded him the lavish lifestyle he chooses, he has always managed to get by on his dramatic good looks, and charm. The second reason is Cornwallish is in debt, and his long time lover (referred to only as Maximillian) has recently left him after years of being the long-suffering/loyal yet constantly betrayed life-partner. Maximillian has always somehow managed to balance the household finances while turning a blind eye towards Cornwallish’s often-public indiscretions. Without Maximillian to care for him, Cornwallish has found he has become what he’s always feared he would be; a bitter old English queen without any money. His famous fiery temperament which fueled his performances, also severed most of his professional ties, and he has found work hard to come by as of late.
One night, a depressed, drunk, and rather randy Cornwallish found himself in a dangerous neighborhood in Liverpool’s harbor district. After Cornwallish received oral gratification from a “rough trade” type male prostitute, he was actually quite shocked when asked for payment. Sheepishly he explained that he had no money, and was brutally beaten by the well-muscled working lad, and left for near dead on the dock. Hospital bills took much of his money, and keeping the incident out of the British tabloids took the rest.
Sir Geoffrey Cornwallish was broke in every sense of the word, and so when he heard that Benjamin Leonard of American television’s “Where’s Daddy” fame was looking for a “Sir Geoffrey Cornwallish” type to play the butler in the upcoming season, Cornwallish made a call to his former agent, Nigel Halsey, to see if they could swing a deal.
The ever-shrewd Leonard never expected to land Cornwallish, so when he seemed to fall in his lap, Leonard did some investigating and spoke to Maximillian, who was more than happy to fill Leonard in on Cornwallish’s latest personal and financial woes. Leonard always had a knack for bringing talent in at the exact lowest price they’d accept, and while Cornwallish was more than slightly disappointed at the money he was to make from the show, he saw it as a chance to straighten out his finances, bed a few young Hollywood boys, and in his heart of hearts, he secretly wished it might somehow reunite him with the love of his life, Maximillian.
Content in his overall uncompromised body of work as an artist, and taking his recent problems into consideration, Cornwallish signs on as the butler to RANDALL in the role of SIR BUCKINGHAM.
In classic Hollywood irony, SIR BUCKINGHAM is cast as a ladies man. Although all of Europe (and much of America) is well aware of Sir Geoffrey Cornwallish’s sexual preference (he has never been with a woman) and in spite of the rather fey way Cornwallish chooses to portray SIR BUCKINGHAM, American women (mostly middle-aged housewives) go crazy for Cornwallish. He has become the latest TV heartthrob, and beats out Ted Danson and Alan Alda as People magazine’s March 1983’s contest, “Male Television Personality I’d Like to be Trapped on a Desert Island With. The syntax of the contest title grates on Cornwallish, almost as much as the fact that he’s even contracted to speak with magazines like People. Although at first annoyed by finding himself working on an American sit-com, the sixty-seven year old, Cornwallish becomes the toast of Tinseltown, and finds it suits his enormous ego quite nicely. Johnny Carson has recently called him one of his favorite guests ever. Always witty and dapper, he never is seen without his trademark ascot and cigarette holder, and while the American public listen to his dagger-like bon mots, (which are usually sharply directed at them) the often-malicious remarks are taken as no more than the clever jestings of a British sophistic.
Cornwallish has nothing but contempt for Jack #2, Dick Masterson. The two had a number of sexual encounters in Swingin’ London during the Sixties. Cornwallish took the young undiscovered Masterson under his wing, and introduced him to the sexual revolution. Masterson was doing a small, artsy play in London; a semi-autobiographical three act, which Cornwallish wrote, performed and directed, entitled, “Mighty as The Oak, Weeping Like the Willow.” Masterson starred in the role of a young Cornwallish, and received glowing reviews from London’s underground theater rags. Cornwallish himself was impressed with the young man’s talent.
Physically, Masterson was the very definition of the American he-man in the late Fifties when he broke into show business. Piercing blue eyes, broad shoulders, and a beautiful head of dark wavy hair. He played football in high school, and dated a number of pretty girls, but he always knew he was gay. Like countless homosexuals of his era before him, Masterson believed if he fucked enough pretty girls, he might “cure” himself. Never comfortable in his own skin, and in an attempt disguise his feminine mannerisms and lisping voice, Masterson enrolled in his high school’s drama class; opening himself up to both his life’s work, and his as of yet, unfulfilled dark secret dream.
In one backstage scenario, tired of being treated as if they never met, Masterson bursts into Cornwallish’s opulently decorated dressing room, and demands an explanation. Masterson quickly loses the hetero front he portrays in real life, and as “America’s father” whenever he is upset. In the rare times Masterson loses control of his well-crafted exterior, he is a hissy-throwing shrew of a man; limp wrested, lisping, tears streaming down his beet red face. In this state, he is more of a stereotypical gay man than the more refined Cornwallish, but this side of him is only really seen when his emotions get the best of him. This is played straight, and the comedy would be at watching this tall, well-built, Mr. Brady-type man trying to hold it together, but being so completely unable to do so. As a child he was taught to repress his true sexual nature, and when he looks back on his life, he admits the only time he ever liked who he was, was during that brief period in London under Cornwallish’s thespian and intimate tutelage. Cornwallish takes great delight in watching Masterson’s veneer crumble so completely. The British actor pulls no punches, berating Masterson for turning his back on all Cornwallish tried to teach him about life back when the young, handsome American actor seemed to have the world at his feet. Cornwallish cruelly criticizes him for abandoning his principles, not accepting his true identity, for marrying a woman and cheating on her with struggling young actors. (Whom he promises to find work for, yet never does) She’s a good woman, Cornwallish shrieks, who doesn’t deserve the kind of humiliation Masterson consistently heaps upon her. Cornwallish can’t hold back his own tears as he scolds Masterson for walking away from the theater to accept a lucrative role on an American soap opera before landing the gig as Jack#2. Something, he dramatically proclaims, a true artist would never do.
The two men quickly realize Cornwallish is talking about himself and before either has a chance to say a word; the pair are called back onto the set for a curtain call. Pros that they both are, they share a silent look, wipe the tears from their eyes, and by the time they hit the stage for the curtain call, both men are beaming, bowing, and soaking up the applause. Masterson occasionally tries to lock eyes one more time, but Cornwallish again ignores him, and pretends to not notice. A bouquet of roses in one hand, he waves theatrically to the fawning audience with the other. Cornwallish inhales deeply the sweet fragrant scent of the flowers, and then he quickly turns his head, as if he doesn’t deserve to enjoy the aroma.