The Queen of Versailles

The Queen of Versailles

David and Jackie Siegel in THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo Credit: Lauren Greenfield.

The Queen of Versailles

Themselves:
Director:
Producer:
Executive Producer:
Co-Executive Producer:
  • Allison Amon
  • Julie Parker Benello
  • Abigail Disney
  • Patricia Greenfield
  • Gerry Grossman
  • Lilly Hartley
  • Pierre Hauser
  • Mette Heide
  • Patricia Lambrecht
  • Lisa Mehling
  • Jeffrey Tarrant
Co-Producer:
Photography Director:
Editor:
Music:
Sound Recordist:
Stills Photographer:
Distributor:
Production Company:

* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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The Queen of Versailles (2012)

Opened: 07/20/2012 Limited

Limited07/20/2012
Angelika/NYC07/20/2012 - 09/06/201249 days
The Landmark07/20/2012 - 08/16/201228 days
Playhouse 707/27/2012 - 08/23/201228 days
Town Center 507/27/2012 - 08/16/201221 days
Kendall Square...07/27/2012 - 08/16/201221 days
Music Box Thea...08/03/2012 - 08/16/201214 days
Fallbrook 708/03/2012 - 08/14/201212 days
Claremont 508/03/2012 - 08/09/20127 days
Monica 4-Plex08/17/2012 - 09/06/201221 days
Clearview Chel...08/24/2012 - 09/06/201214 days
Music Box Thea...08/31/2012 - 09/06/20127 days
Village East09/07/2012 - 09/20/201214 days
Cinema Village...09/21/2012 - 10/04/201214 days
DVD11/13/2012

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home

Genre: Documentary

Rated: PG for for thematic elements and language.

Synopsis

THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES is a character-driven documentary about a billionaire family and their financial challenges in the wake of the economic crisis. With epic proportions of Shakespearean tragedy, the film follows two unique characters, whose rags-to-riches success stories reveal the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream. The film begins with the family triumphantly constructing the biggest house in America, a 90,000 sq. ft. palace. Over the next two years, their sprawling empire, fueled by the real estate bubble and cheap money, falters due to the economic crisis. Major changes in lifestyle and character ensue within the cross-cultural household of family members and domestic staff.

Director's Statement

The Queen of Versailles is a story about a self-made billionaire family: their larger-than-life plan to build the biggest house in America, and subsequent struggle in the wake of the economic crisis. The film visually documents the American Dream: its values and lifestyles, its relationship to home ownership, and the ways it has encouraged all Americans to reach beyond their economic means. A familiar story writ large, the film is an epic narrative that speaks to anyone who has had to adapt to the economic crisis.

The film follows two unique characters, David and Jackie Siegel, whose rags-to-riches success stories set the stage for the ultimate realization of the American Dream. When I first met Jackie in 2007, she and her husband David were triumphantly constructing their new home: a 90,000 sq. ft. palace inspired by both the chateau in Ile-de-France and the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. After the 2008 crash, the gargantuan home, aptly named Versailles, became a symbolic backdrop for Jackie and David's personal journey, as they navigated financial setbacks that forced them to put their dream home on the market, and downsize their lifestyle and business. As they fall back down to earth, Jackie and David's characters develop in unexpected ways as they adapt to the new circumstances with surprisingly relatable humility and candor. The way they respectively handle these challenges shed light on both their characters, their hard-knock origins, and imbue their story with an "everyman" quality that is as unpredictable as their change in fortune.

Throughout their journey, their extended coterie of domestic help, family members, and friends from diverse class and ethnic backgrounds, gives their world an "upstairs, downstairs" prism through which we gain insight into other interpretations of the American dream, and the universal ramifications of the financial crisis.

I first met Jackie, the title character of The Queen of Versailles, while photographing Donatella Versace for ELLE Magazine. She had been flown to Donatella's party because she was one of her best customers at the time. I found her refreshingly friendly and candid, with a combination of chutzpah, self-effacing humor, and lack of pretense, qualities that are sometimes obscured by the protective veil of great wealth. Jackie shared with me that she was the mother of seven children who she flew around the country in a private plane on their frequent travels, and that she was building the biggest house in America. She invited me to visit Florida and photograph their family. Little did I know this would be the first shoot of a three-year relationship with the Siegels, and the beginning of a film about their lives.

For the last two decades, I have been working on a long-term photographic work about wealth, consumerism, and the international influence of the values of the American Dream. Although I originally went to see Jackie to take still photographs, once I got to know her and her family, it was clear that her story that could only be told through film. In her typically welcoming style, she invited me to stay in their 26,000 square foot "starter" mansion, where I found a household full of warmth and constant activity, amazing characters, a menagerie of animals, and an unusually down-home sensibility where Jackie and David managed to stay true to their humble origins and tastes, while living in an outsized fantasy world of castles, private jets, priceless antiques, and theme-park quality activities for their children.

In an age of cultural obsession with the rich, chronicled by reality TV ("Keeping Up with the Kardashians," "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"), I wanted to tell a deeper, cinema-verite story of an extraordinarily wealthy family that had the ambitious goal of building the biggest house in America.

And then the financial crisis got in the way of the 30-year expansion of the timeshare business that had made David a billionaire, as well as the building of the palace that was his reward. When life started to stray from all of our expectations, I was fortunate that Jackie and David had the courage to stay committed to the project and allow me to document their journey. As two remarkable individuals who had come from rags to riches and weathered many storms, they didn't fear this one. They understood, on some level, that their journey was a statement about the American Dream and the challenge the crisis posed for that dream.

The Queen of Versailles is my second feature-length documentary (THIN was at Sundance in 2006), and my fourth film. But in some ways, it is the first project where the sociological and aesthetic voice of my photography is realized within the medium of film. With intimate access, and an empathetic perspective that was the result of long periods of time spent with the family, The Queen of Versailles combines environmental portraiture in a series of interviews, with cinema-verite "decisive moments." Although I could never have predicted the turn of fortune that happened in the making of this film, the generosity and candor of the Siegel family in the process allowed me to document a human drama that is also a morality tale with lessons for us all.

-- Lauren Greenfield, Director

About the Filmmakers

Lauren Greenfield (Director)

Acclaimed documentary photographer/filmmaker, Lauren Greenfield is considered a preeminent chronicler of youth culture, gender and consumerism, as a result of her monographs "Girl Culture," "Fast Forward," "THIN" and other photographic works, which have been widely published, exhibited, and collected by leading museums around the world.

In addition to The Queen of Versailles, Lauren has previously directed three award-winning documentary films -- THIN, kids + money, and Beauty CULTure. THIN was selected for the Official Competition at Sundance in 2006, was nominated for an Emmy for Best Direction, and received the prestigious John Grierson Award for Best Documentary at the London Film Festival in 2006. kids + money, also selected for the Official Shorts Program at Sundance 2008, won several Best Doc Awards (AFI, Ann Arbor, Gold Hugo), and was selected as one of the top five nonfiction shorts in the world by Cinema Eye Honors 2009. Beauty CULTure was the featured documentary of the record-setting exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles (Summer 2011), which received the Lucie Award for Exhibition of the Year (2011).

American Photo named Lauren one of the 25 most influential photographers working today. Her work was recently showcased in the Getty Museum's historical exhibition, "Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties" (2010).

Danielle Renfrew Behrens (Producer)

Danielle Renfrew Behrens has had four features premiere at Sundance, including Waitress (Fox Searchlight), American Son (Miramax), and November and Groove (Sony Classics). She also produced Daltry Calhoun (Miramax) with Quentin Tarantino, as well as the feature documentary Double Dare, which premiered at Toronto and won the audience award at AFI and San Francisco International.

Frank Evers (Executive Producer)

Frank Evers is the founder/executive producer of Evergreen Pictures, the production company behind The Queen of Versailles. Evergreen Pictures specializes in documentary films and documentary-based commercial productions. Previous films include Beauty CULTure 2011), The Gatorade "BECOME" campaign (2011), Fashion Show (2010), and kids + money (2008), to name a few. Frank is also the CEO of INSTITUTE, which represents some of the best documentary and fine art photographers in the world. In 2010, Frank co-founded the Future of StoryTelling, an ideas conference for creative leaders and practitioners (scheduled for New York, June 2012). Between 1995 and 2005, Frank spent 10 years in the video game business, running product development and production for Activision, Vivendi, and Disney Interactive. During this time, his video games generated over $1 billion in global sales. Frank started in the film business with Sony Pictures Entertainment, and later executive produced the cult classic film Swimming With Sharks, starring Kevin Spacey.

Tom Hurwitz (Director of Photography)

Hurwitz's films have won two Emmys, a Sundance Award, and four Academy Awards. His filmography includes Harlan County USA, Valentino: The Last Emperor & Dance Maker, Wild Man Blues, My Generation, Down and Out in America, Questioning Faith (HBO), "Franklin" (PBS' Emmy-winning Best Documentary), and "Doubt at Ground Zero" (PBS).

Victor Livingston (Editor)

Victor Livingston has edited numerous highly acclaimed character-driven documentaries. His credits include Terry Zwigoff's Crumb, Bukowski: Born into This, and most recently Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. Corman's World premiered at Sundance 2011, screened at Cannes in May, and was released theatrically in late 2011. Victor has also served as an advisor at the Sundance Edit and Story Lab.

Jeff Beal (Composer)

Jeff Beal is one of the most prolific and respected composers working in film and television today. He's won 4 Emmy awards, and been nominated 10 times. His previous works include scores for Pollock and Appaloosa for director Ed Harris, the groundbreaking series "Carnivale" and "Rome" for HBO, and his Emmy-winning scores for "Monk," "Battleground," and "The Company" for producer Ridley Scott.

He's appeared at Sundance previously with Jessica Yu's feature documentaries In The Realms of the Unreal and Protagonist, William H. Macy's The Deal, and The Passion of Ayn Rand, starring Helen Mirren.

Jeff's recent projects include the score for Al Pacino's Wilde-Salome, starring Jessica Chastain, Last Call at the Oasis for Participant Media, and "Luck" (HBO) for director/producer Michael Mann. Beal's scores are often propelled by a strong sense of melody and frequent use of chamber size instrumentations. In a musical climate where bigger is better seems to be the pervading aesthetic, his scores are often intimate, dramatically specific, and character driven. He conducts and orchestrates his own scores, and often performs on them. He plays piano, trumpet, duduk, recorders, harmonica, percussion, rababa, oud, and french horn. He is also active in concert music, where his works have been performed by many leading soloists and orchestras worldwide.

 

Trailer