The Man in the Iron Mask (1998 film)

The Man in the Iron Mask is a 1998 American action drama film directed, produced and written by Randall Wallace, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in a dual role as the title character and villain, Jeremy Irons as Aramis, John Malkovich as Athos, Gérard Depardieu as Porthos and Gabriel Byrne as D'Artagnan.[3] The picture uses characters from Alexandre Dumas's D'Artagnan Romances and is very loosely adapted from some plot elements of his 1847-1850 novel The Vicomte de Bragelonne.

The Man in the Iron Mask
The Man in the Iron Mask.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRandall Wallace
Screenplay byRandall Wallace
Based on
Produced byRandall Wallace
Russell Smith
CinematographyPeter Suschitzky
Edited byWilliam Hoy
Music byNick Glennie-Smith
Distributed byMGM Distribution Co.
Release date
  • March 13, 1998 (1998-03-13) (United States)
  • March 20, 1998 (1998-03-20) (United Kingdom)
Running time
132 minutes
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$35 million
Box office$183 million[2]

The film centers on the aging four musketeers, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan, during the reign of King Louis XIV and attempts to explain the mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask, using a plot more closely related to the flamboyant 1929 version starring Douglas Fairbanks, The Iron Mask, and the 1939 version directed by James Whale, than to the original Dumas book. Like the 1998 version, the two aforementioned adaptations were also released through United Artists. The film received mixed reviews but was a financial success, grossed $183 million worldwide against a budget of $35 million.


The Kingdom of France faces bankruptcy from King Louis XIV's wars against the Dutch, causing French citizens to starve. As the country moves toward revolution, King Louis prepares for war. At this point, the four musketeers have gone their separate ways; Aramis is now a priest, Porthos is a womanizing drunkard, and Athos has retired to his farm. Only D'Artagnan has remained loyal to the musketeers and is now the captain.

Athos' only son, Raoul, aspires to join the musketeers. At a palace festival, Louis sets his eyes on Christine Bellefort, Raoul's fiancée. He immediately plots to send Raoul to the battlefront, where he is killed soon after. Aware that Louis orchestrated his son's death, Athos renounces his allegiance to the king. After an assassination attempt on Louis by the Jesuit order is foiled by D'Artagnan, Louis instructs Aramis to hunt down and kill their leader. In response, Aramis summons Porthos, Athos, and D'Artagnan for a secret meeting in which he reveals he is the Jesuit's secret leader and has a plan to depose Louis. Athos and Porthos agree to join him, but D'Artagnan refuses. Athos brands him a traitor and threatens him with death should they ever meet again. Meanwhile, Louis seduces Christine, who later begins to suspect his part in Raoul's death.

The musketeers infiltrate the Île Sainte-Marguerite prison and free a prisoner wearing an iron mask. The prisoner is taken to the countryside, where Aramis reveals he is Philippe, King Louis' brother. Their mother, Queen Anne, gave birth to identical twins. Louis XIII, to avoid dynastic warfare between his sons, sent Philippe to live in the countryside and grow up without knowing his true identity. When Louis XIII died, he revealed Philippe's existence to Anne and Louis XIV. Anne wanted to restore Philippe's birthright. Instead, Louis was too superstitious to have his brother killed and, to preserve his power, imprisoned him in the iron mask to conceal his identity, an act that Aramis executed. Aramis wishes to redeem himself and save France by replacing Louis with the more benevolent Philippe. The musketeers tutor Philippe in courtly life and how to behave like Louis. Meanwhile, Athos develops paternal feelings for Philippe.

At a masquerade ball, the musketeers lure Louis to his quarters and subdue him. They dress Philippe in Louis's clothes and return him to the festivities while taking Louis to a waiting boat in the dungeons. D'Artagnan, however, sees through the ruse after Christine publicly accuses Philippe of Louis's role in Raoul's death. He forcibly escorts Philippe to the dungeons. Musketeer soldiers intervene before Athos, Porthos, and Aramis can escape with Louis. The king is rescued as the three musketeers get away, but Philippe is captured. Though Louis is prepared to kill Philippe, D'Artagnan, upon learning Philippe's true identity, begs that he be spared. Louis instead orders Philippe back to the Bastille and into the iron mask. Soon after, a grieving Christine commits suicide.

D'Artagnan contacts the musketeers to help rescue Philippe from the Bastille. Louis, suspecting an attempt, ambushes them at the prison. Louis offers D'Artagnan clemency in exchange for surrender. D'Artagnan refuses, privately telling his comrades that he is Louis and Philippe's father from an affair with the Queen, and that that was the reason for his loyalty to Louis. As they charge one final time at Louis and his men, they are fired upon; their bravery compels the soldiers to close their eyes before firing, and all miss. Louis attempts to stab Philippe but fatally wounds D'Artagnan. Philippe nearly strangles Louis to death, but D'Artagnan's dying words halt him. D'Artagnan's top lieutenant, Andre, angered by his mentor's death, swears his men to secrecy and sides with Philippe. They switch the twins again, and Philippe orders Louis locked away. He then names Athos, Porthos, and Aramis as his closest advisors.

At a small graveside service for D'Artagnan, Philippe tells Athos that he has come to love him like a father, which Athos reciprocates. Philippe later issues Louis a royal pardon and confines him to the countryside to live in seclusion, while he goes on to become one of France's greatest kings.



In this version, the "man in the iron mask" is introduced as prisoner number 64389000 based on the number related to his namesake found at the Bastille. The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte acts as the primary residence of the king as Versailles was still early in its construction and years away from Louis establishing residence there.

Differences between versionsEdit

The novel and the filmed versions of the tale have some differences in how they portray the royal twins and the plot to switch them.

In Alexandre Dumas's The Vicomte de Bragelonne, although the plot to replace King Louis XIV with his twin brother is foiled, the twin is initially depicted as a much more sympathetic character than the King. However, in the last part of the novel, the King is portrayed as an intelligent, more mature, and slightly misunderstood man who in fact deserves the throne—and the Musketeers themselves are split, Aramis (with assistance from Porthos, who is ignorant and easily duped) siding with the prisoner, D'Artagnan with King Louis, and Athos retiring from politics entirely. D'Artagnan, foiling the plot of the others, is tasked with capturing his friends, who have taken refuge in a fortress in Bretony: he resigns his command, knowing that he will be arrested and his subordinate will open fire anyway. Without D'Artagnan's command and his tactical knowledge of his friends-turned-foes, Aramis's fortress refuge is taken by the king's men but at great loss of life, while Porthos dies in a heroic last stand and Aramis escapes to take political asylum in Spain (and later return as a member of the Spanish embassage, to ensure their neutrality should France and Holland come to blows.) D'Artagnan explains himself to the King, and is pardoned and restored to his position, and told that if he wants the final promotion he was on the point of earning, he had better go and win it on a foreign field: in the later war against Holland, he is finally awarded promotion to the supreme command, only to be killed while reading the notice of his promotion at the siege of Maastricht.

In the 1929 silent version, The Iron Mask starring Douglas Fairbanks as D'Artagnan, the King is depicted favorably and the twin brother as a pawn in an evil plot whose thwarting by D'Artagnan and his companions seems more appropriate.

In the 1998 film, the King is depicted negatively while his twin brother is sympathetically portrayed. D'Artagnan's loyalties are torn between his King and his three Musketeer friends. He is also revealed as the father of the twins, as well as being dedicated to the interests of France.

Finally, the 1998 film shows a clear inspiration from the biblical story of King David and Uriah in dealing with Raoul's fate, which lacks in the novel.

Historical inaccuraciesEdit

Many historical persons and events depicted in the film are heavily fictionalized, as declared in an opening narration.

  • A portrait of Louis XV can be seen in Louis XIV's apartments. Louis XV was the great-grandson and successor of Louis XIV. He was born in 1710, and the events of the film take place about half a century before his birth.
  • D'Artagnan's death is inconsistent with biographic fact. The character is based on Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, a captain of the Musketeers of the Guard, who was killed in battle during the Siege of Maastricht (1673)—an event that concludes the Dumas novels, in which D'Artagnan is killed while reading the long-awaited notice of his promotion to the supreme command.
  • Louis XIV had a real-life brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, who is not depicted in the film and was not the King's twin. Louis XIV was born in 1638. Philippe I was his younger brother, born in 1640. Philippe was the founder of the House of Orléans, a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon. He appears in the original Dumas novels—as a foppish, probably homosexual dandy—but is not involved in the Iron Mask plot on either side, having little more than a reference that he is the only brother Louis is prepared to acknowledge.
  • Set in 1662, the film portrays the king as unmarried. The historical Louis XIV married his first wife, Maria Theresa of Spain, in 1660. They remained married until her death in 1683.
  • Notwithstanding the peace and prosperity alluded to at the film's conclusion, Louis XIV spent most of the remainder of his reign at war.


Box officeEdit

The film grossed $17 million on its opening weekend in second place behind Titanic, another film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It eventually grossed $56 million at the domestic box office, and $126 million in international receipts, for a total of $183 million worldwide.

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 32% based on 41 reviews. The site's critical consensus states, "Leonardo DiCaprio plays dual roles with diminishing returns in The Man in the Iron Mask, a cheesy rendition of the Musketeers' epilogue that bears all the pageantry of Alexandre Dumas' text, but none of its romantic panache."[4] On Metacritic it has a score of 48% based on 18 reviews.[5]


The film was nominated for the Best Original Score for an Adventure Film by the International Film Music Critics Award (IFMCA).[6]

Depardieu was nominated for the European Film Academy Achievement in World Cinema Award for his role as Porthos.[6] DiCaprio won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple for his interactions as twins in the film.[6]


The Man in the Iron Mask (Original Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedMarch 10, 1998 (1998-03-10)
LabelMilan Records
Nick Glennie-Smith chronology
Home Alone 3
The Man in the Iron Mask (Original Soundtrack)
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride
Review scores
AllMusic      link
Filmtracks      link

Music for this film was written by the English composer Nick Glennie-Smith. The figure skater Alexei Yagudin became a gold medalist skating to this music in the 2002 Winter Olympics. He won with the program The Man in the Iron Mask, based on the movie soundtrack.[7]

  1. "Surrounded"
  2. "Heart of a King"
  3. "The Pig Chase"
  4. "The Ascension"
  5. "King for a King"
  6. "The Moon Beckons"
  7. "The Masked Ball"
  8. "A Taste of Something"
  9. "Kissy Kissie"
  10. "Training to Be King"
  11. "The Rose"
  12. "All Will Be Well"
  13. "All for One"
  14. "Greatest Mystery of Life"
  15. "Raoul and Christine"
  16. "It is a Trap"
  17. "Angry Athos"
  18. "Raoul's Letter"
  19. "The Palace"
  20. "Raoul's Death"
  21. "Queen Approaches"


  1. ^ "The Man in the Iron Mask". British Film Institute. London. Archived from the original on February 7, 2009. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  2. ^ Box Office Mojo Weekend Charts for 1998, weekend 1 to 52
  3. ^ Olthuis, Andrew. "The Man in the Iron Mask". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  4. ^ "The Man in the Iron Mask Awards". Rotten Tomatoes.
  5. ^ "The Man in the Iron Mask Awards". Metacritic.
  6. ^ a b c "The Man in the Iron Mask Awards". IMDb.
  7. ^ See his costume for this program at

External linksEdit