Continuing her track record of portraying mentally unstable, fabulously coifed broads (see: Fatal Attraction, 101 Dalmatians), Glenn Close has signed on to play Anna Anderson, the real woman who once claimed to be the famed Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova of Russia. You know, the one who’s definitely dead and not a lady named Anna Anderson.
Duchess, helmed by Close’s The Chumscrubber directer Arin Posen, follows the imposter through a “dark road trip comedy based on true events.” Anderson, a formerly institutionalized Prussian woman, changed her name to that of the doomed Russian royal and convinced the public that she was actually the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra, the girl thought to have been executed along with the rest of her family in 1918. Even though people eventually wised up and decided to check that she was actually a Romanov (Surprise! Just Crazy!), the media and public kept the story going because it’s hard to resist the tale of royalty come back from the grave.
As for the road trip — life got a bit more complex for Anderson/”Romanov” later in life when she moved to the United States in the 1960’s and married a man twenty years her junior. After being forcibly institutionalized in the 1980s her honey busted her out of the hospital, when they then set off on the honeymoon they never had, all the while evading police.
It’s this section of her life that Duchess will focus upon, which seems like an odd choice considering the wide scope of her exploits. You’ve got a Russian media frenzy and a stolen identity — of a brutally murdered future princess — to work with, and the film is centering on a few days driving around Virginia trying to dodge the cops. That’s nothing, and it makes you wonder exactly what went down over the course of Anderson’s road trip that makes it such compelling fodder for an entire film. Let the crazy commence.
Undoubtedly, Close will do great things with the character; as said before, she has an excellent flair for going off the rails and portraying an aging fame chaser obsessed with a dead royal seems right up her alley. If you can think back to 1997, a Romanov imposter tale was already told once before (albeit in a much more whimsical manner) in the animated musical Anastasia, in which an orphan attempting to find her family is taken in by con men who exploit her resemblance to the duchess. Only it turns out that she’s actually the real Anastasia the whole time. Cue several uplifting songs.
For some reason, Duchess doesn’t seem like it’s going to be so heartwarming.