Royal romance immortalised in screen cheese

Prince William's wedding provides fodder for a bizarre sub-section of the film industry

Critics sneer at them and experts ridicule their inaccuracies, but for a week or two, at least, they pique the curiosity of audiences everywhere. Welcome to the world of the cut-price, quickly made biopic.

This is a form of film-making as old as cinema itself, where lurid or uplifting topical tales are transformed into cheap movies.

The ground rules are simple: keep the budget modest, cast actors who look at least vaguely like the real-life protagonists they are playing and shoot the movies at breakneck pace, so they can be released before the memories of the events have faded.

In biopics, celebrity murder trials or scandals have almost as much allure as British royal weddings. During the OJ Simpson trial of the mid-1990s, films were quickly set up (and, it is rumoured, quietly abandoned after OJ was cleared of murder). In the past year, movies have been announced about Bernie Madoff and the trapped Chilean miners.

Biopics often exist in a netherworld between reportage and drama, preying on audiences' morbidity and voyeurism. When Beverly Hills brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez were convicted of murdering their parents, rival TV movies were hastily produced.

At the same time, biopics are often about escapism and real-life soap opera. Next week sees the UK release (on DVD) of William and Kate – the Love Story, shot in Los Angeles and telling the story of Prince William and Kate's relationship from their St Andrews University days to the moment they walk down the aisle. The film has already had stinking reviews. "The naffest royal movie ever made", "God-awful", "cringeworthy" and "ghastly" are the some of the phrases that critics have been lobbing in its direction. But these are as much a recommendation as a put-down. It is the movie equivalent of the commemorative mug or tea towel, an exercise in merchandising and moment-seizing as much as one in storytelling.

Part of the pleasure in such biopics – at least for British audiences – lies in their innate cheesiness. If the actors do not really look like the characters they are portraying (Ben Cross of Chariots Of Fire fame is certainly no dead ringer for Prince Charles), the actresses sound like Valley girls and the inaccuracies and anachronisms abound, that only adds to the enjoyment. The films are not weighed down with the deadening attention to detail that makes so many British heritage pictures painful to watch.

"The interest in William and Kate is already huge and we're looking forward to releasing a high-quality film that will undoubtedly satisfy the unprecedented appetite for what is the biggest event in the UK in years. It will appeal to audiences of all ages," said Stephen Staniland, of the UK distributor Revolver. Such hyperbolic language is clearly absurd but comes with the territory. Still, the real drama in the story of the courtship of the Berkshire-born girl (played by Camilla Luddington) and the clean-cut young royal (played by Kiwi actor Nico Evers-Swindell) is pretty minimal. Speaking yesterday, Mr Staniland struck a more modest note.

"The film is not meant to be taken seriously. It is not a documentary about the life of William and Kate," he said. "It's an interpretation." William and Kate will also be screened on Channel Five this month but, even so, Revolver is optimistic of being able to sell between 50,000 and 100,000 copies of the DVD. A rival biopic, William & Kate: A Royal Love Story, is to go into production in Romania, and reports say it will be on Hallmark in the US in August, "a few weeks before the 14-year anniversary of the death of William's mother, Princess Diana".

Low-budget biopics

The Royal Romance Of Charles and Diana (1982)

Real royalty in the supporting cast: Olivia De Havilland as the Queen mum and Catherine Oxenberg as Princess Diana.

Charles and Diana: Unhappily Ever After (1992)

A decade on, Oxenberg returned to play the Princess again, opposite Roger Rees.

The OJ Simpson Story (1995)

This TV movie was started before OJ’s trial was over – before he was acquitted.

Polanski Unauthorised (2009)

This film about the Polish director was made before his arrest in 2009.

Madoff: Made Off With America (2011)

New budget drama about the swindler. The trailer does not inspire confidence.

Menendez: A Killing in Beverly Hills (1994)

One of two morbid TV movies made in double-quick time about the brothers.

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?