Did You Know That Heath Ledger Was Supposed to Direct ‘The Queen’s Gambit’?
Nov 10, 2020   •   Meryl Medel
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Nov 10, 2020   •   Meryl Medel
It has been weeks since the release of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, but it still remains part of the top 10 shows being watched by the Philippine audience. And we understand why. The show was simply electric in its entirety, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon got us falling for her hook, line, and sinker from the moment when we first saw her getting out of that tub gasping. In case you’re getting some post-binge-watching blues, here are some things you probably should know about The Queen’s Gambit that you may not have known going in.
Yes, that’s right. The Netflix show is an adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis. The book is a mishmash of sports, thriller, and bildungsroman (that’s litspeak for coming-of-age).
It would have been Ledger’s directorial debut. Right before his untimely death in 2008, Ledger was working with one of the show’s creators, Allan Scott, to bring the story from paper to screen. Ellen Page had been offered the role of Beth, and filming was supposed to start by the end of 2008.
The world has been waiting for decades for this masterpiece. Even before Ledger’s name was associated with the adaptation, Allan Scott had already been working hard to turn the adaptation into a reality since he acquired the screen rights in 1992. It’s not until 2019 when Allan Scott and Scott Frank had come together to work on what we now know as The Queen’s Gambit.
In the Netflix show, Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and all the actors played those chess games on set, even the numerous nerve-wracking speed chess matches. In an interview with THR, Anya even said that she really enjoyed those parts, that she had never been more proud of herself than after she successfully played a speed chess match.
Even though she looked like she knew what she was doing on-screen as Beth, Anya didn’t actually know much about chess. “Beth is discovering the world of chess,” she said, “and I could bring that awe and magic to it as well.” Well, she certainly did. We as the audience felt in awe of that new world she was exploring. Anyone want to play some speed chess? Skittles? Or blitz? Or bughouse?
But yes, the show hired Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and renowned chess coach Bruce Pandolfini as chess consultants (choreographers of the games, if you will), who coached all of the actors and choreographed every move during the chess games in the show.
The actors coached by actual chess players move the pieces and play the games by themselves, and it makes the whole thing much more realistic. But those games are actually real. They’re based on actual chess competitions played by actual chess masters in real life. The Harmon vs Beltik match in the Kentucky state competition was a 1955 game in Latvia, while the final match between Harmon and Borgov in the last episode was a 1993 match in Switzerland.
Most members of the chess community agree that The Queen’s Gambit was actually rather spot-on in its portrayal of the world of chess. Of course, there are some hiccups — such as the show’s characters talking during matches as opposed to the quietness of a real-life match — but otherwise, the show received praise from chess masters.
It’s not just chess games that were based on real life. Even the pills that Beth was addicted to have some historical basis. In the show, the orphanage in which Beth grew up gave their wards a tranquilizer called Xanzolam, which were claimed to be “vitamins” that can “even their dispositions.” According to Newsweek, it’s quite similar to chlordiazepoxide or librium, a then-new pill approved for medical use in the ’60s. It was prescribed to women dealing with anxiety and insomnia.
What do you think of The Queen’s Gambit? Have you binged it yet? Tell us below!
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