With his long list of successful films, you might Martin Scorcese to be riding to work in a Rolls-Royce, but it seems he plans to make his next film about the classic luxury brand – or, more precisely, about its early years and the people who transformed Rolls into as much a legend as an automobile company.
Best known for violent, if thought-provoking works like Raging Bull and Goodfellas, Scorcese occasionally has been known to take a turn towards romantic period pieces, such as Age of Innocence and last year’s acclaimed Hugo. So, don’t expect a lot of explosions and violence when the 69-year-old director teams up with Britain’s Lord Attenborough – himself best known for the Academy Award winner Gandhi.
Nonetheless, it has all the makings of a classic melodrama, with illicit love affairs, fancy costumes and did we mention it just might have an explosion or two?
The film is set to follow the lives of founders Charles Rolls and Henry Royce but seems ripe for the melodramatic touch thanks to the illicit love affair between Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and his secretary Eleanor Thornton. Don’t recognize her name? She wound up serving as the model for the “Spirit of Ecstasy” that sits atop the bonnet – as the Brits prefer it – of every Rolls-Royce.
As for Lord Montagu, less formally known as John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, he was not only a member of the House of Lords but an early proponent of the automobile, even launched one of Britain’s first motoring magazines, the monthly Car.
Early on, there was strong resistance to the horseless carriage in the U.K., one law requiring a flagman to proceed each vehicle on foot to alert pedestrians and horse riders so they would not be spooked by the noisy, smelly contraptions. Montagu set out to change all that, serving on the Road Board, helping introduce license plates and, in 1899, driving the first automobile, a Daimler, into the yard of the House of Commons.
It was one of Montagu’s friends, artist Charles Sykes, who created the Spirit of Ecstasy.
“When I read the story of ‘Silver Ghost’, I was mesmerised,” Scorsese said. “I immediately thought this is a picture that has to be made. I didn’t hesitate for a moment.”
Actually, Scorcese will get his chance to work in at least one noisy explosion. Thornton, who went to work for Lord Montagu at 22 – soon bearing an illegitimate daughter she was forced to put up for adoption – was later riding with her regal paramour through the Mediterranean on the way to India when, on December 30, 1915, their ship, the SS Persia was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. The young aspiring actress was among 100s who drowned. Lord Montagu survived.
But the Mssrs Rolls and Royce also add some spice to the tale. Charles Rolls was also an early aviation pioneer and died in a 1910 plane crash at the age of only 32. Henry Royce made it to the much more ripe old age of 70, living by the creed, “Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble,” and earning himself a knighthood.
The screenplay was pulled together by writer Sharman Macdonald – who just happens to be Kiera Knightley’s mother. And, according to a report in Britain’s Top Gear, Christian Bale is rumored to be in the running to play the dashing Lord Montagu.
Tags: auto news, charles rolls, henry royce, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, rolls-royce, rolls-royce film, scorcese rolls-royce, scorcese silver ghost, silver ghost, silver ghost film, spirit of ecstasy, thedetroitbureau