There was a time, way back in the simpler, more innocent mists of the early 2000s, when Tulip Fever was a very hot Hollywood property. Deborah Moggach’s bestselling novel, a historical romance set in 17th-century Amsterdam, put dollar signs and golden statuettes in the eyes of producers seeking a period hit in the vein of Shakespeare in Love. Tom Stoppard, that film’s Oscar-winning screenwriter, did the adaptation; Jude Law and Keira Knightley were cast, only for the UK government to seal off the tax loophole enabling its funding.
Nearly a decade later, with the mighty Harvey Weinstein on board, Tulip Fever bloomed again, albeit with slightly diminished prestige: director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) and stars Dane DeHaan and Alicia Vikander weren’t quite on the A-list in 2013, though Weinstein juiced up the ensemble’s awards cred with the likes of Judi Dench and Christoph Waltz. (Three years before Dunkirk, he also tried for Harry Styles, but no dice.) One way or another, by the end of 2014, the film was shot and cut and ready to go.
Cut to late summer 2017, and Alicia Vikander is an Oscar-winning industry princess, Dane DeHaan is headlining pricey blockbusters and Cara Delevingne, then cast in a minor role, is a wall-to-wall mega-celeb. And they have all achieved this upgrade in status without a lick of help from Tulip Fever, which is only this week limping its way into US cinemas. The box office prognosis is not good, but it’s already an industry punchline, following a farcical few years of repeated rescheduling and abruptly pulled release dates on the part of The Weinstein Company. (Even an industry screening for Writers Guild members was cancelled at the very last minute, once befuddled attendees had already turned up.) For its risen stars, the film is now the largely estranged, embarrassing ex-schoolmate who turns up awkwardly at the wedding.
The embargo for reviews lifts, ominously, on the day of release – though advance word…