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Crown Prince Leopold is the main villain of the 2006 mystery-romance film, The Illusionist. The son of the Emperor of Austria, Leopold wields considerable influence throughout the kingdom, perhaps enough to rival that of his father. Normally, he and protagonist Eisenheim the Illusionist would have no cause to meet, let alone match wits; however, Leopold is engaged to Eisenheim's childhood sweetheart, Sophie, and with the Crown Prince's notoriety for abusing women in mind, it's not long before the rivalry turns into a feud.

He was portrayed by Rufus Sewell.

Biography

Much of Leopold's life remains a mystery, though it can be assumed he has spent much of his life in a position of considerable power and luxury. However, despite being first in line to the throne of Austria, he has already acquired an unsavory reputation by the start of the film: believed by many to be a violent alcoholic and a brutal abuser of women, he's rumored to have murdered at least one erstwhile lover by throwing her out a window, supposedly to disguise the bruises he'd left on her. Also, at least one scene suggests that he is either a morphine addict or suffers from a medical condition necessitating regular injections of unspecified chemicals.

Though Leopold is first introduced in an interview with Chief Inspector Uhl as part of the framing device for the plot, his first chronological appearance in the film is when he decides to attend a magic show staged by Eisenheim the Illusionist (born Eduard Abramovitch). However, his retinue includes his fiancee, Sophie the Duchess Von Teschen - who just so happens to be Eisenheim's childhood sweetheart. As such, when Leopold volunteers Sophie for the final illusion of the evening, he unwittingly rekindles the relationship between the two. Unaware of their relationship, the Crown Prince is impressed with the Eisenheim's performance and invites him to perform at Hofburg palace in a private show for the most powerful members of the aristocracy.

Unfortunately, the Hofburg show quickly turns mean-spirited when Leopold insists on dissecting every single trick that the magician performs, much to the annoyance of both the audience and the performer. In an act of what appears to be petty vengeance, Eisenheim borrows the Crown Prince's sword for an illusion based on the legend of Excalibur, inviting the noblemen to prove their right to rule by seeing if they can remove the sword from the stage - and when Leopold tries, makes it impossible for him to move the blade at all, humiliating him in front of the entire audience. Enraged at being made a laughingstock, Leopold shuts down Eisenheim's show and bans him from ever performing in Vienna ever again.

Despite the Crown Prince's best efforts to keep an eye on the Duchess's movements via Inspector Uhl, Sophie soon meets up with Eisenheim and they begin carrying on an affair behind her fiancee's back; over the course of their time together, the disgraced illusionist tries to persuade Sophie to leave with him, but is refused out of fear that they might be caught and executed for treason. It's soon revealed that the Crown Prince is planning a major coup against the Emperor in the hopes of seizing total control of the country, and is unlikely to tolerate any setbacks - no matter how minor.

Unfortunately, Leopold soon discovers the truth about Sophie's infidelity and confronts her in a drunken rage; disgusted with her fiancee's behavior, Sophie attempts to call off her marriage to him once and for all, and though she ends up getting backhanded across the face for it, she goes so far as to storm out of the palace in an attempt to escape via the stables. Drawing a sword, Leopold follows her; the following morning, Sophie's body is discovered some distance from the palace, slumped over the horse she fled on. Distraught, Eisenheim openly accuses the Crown Prince of murder, but with no proof to support his claims, he is forced to leave the limelight for a time.

However, Eisenheim eventually reappears with a new theater and a new show, this time drawing a much more fanatical audience by appearing to summon the spirits of the dead. Determined to discredit his old rival as a charlatan, Leopold disguises himself as a commoner and discreetly attends one of the performances; however, this particular show features Eisenheim summoning the ghost of Sophie, who is able to confirm for the audience that she was murdered - and that her murderer is attending the show; to the Crown Prince's continued horror, the audience seem to believe her, and many of them conclude that he himself was the culprit. Deeply shaken, Leopold insists that the necromancy on display was just another illusion, and orders Inspector Uhl to arrest Einsenheim if he continues disturbing the peace. However, the attempt at an arrest is disrupted when an angry mob gathers outside the police station, demanding the illusionist's release; at Uhl's insistence, Eisenheim explains that everything he displayed was just an illusion and encourages the rioters to disperse. However, though both Eisenheim and the mob leave quietly, it's clear that the fanaticism surrounding the magician isn't dying down anytime soon.

On Leopold's orders, Eisenheim's final performance is attended by platoon of police officers led by Uhl, all of them commanded to break up the show and arrest the illusionist if he spreads any more misinformation against the crown. However, the show and the attempted arrest end with Eisenheim inexplicably vanishing into mist, send Uhl on a long and fruitless search through Vienna; however, along the way he discovers conclusive proof that Leopold murdered Sophie - a gem from the Crown Prince's sword and Sophie's locket - along with evidence of the conspiracy against the emperor.

Back in the present, Uhl confronts Leopold over the murders, intending to have him arrested and charged for murder, treason and conspiracy against the crown; he also reveals that he has already informed the Emperor and his general staff of the attempted coup, ensuring that the Crown Prince will not be able to escape the consequences of his actions even if he kills Uhl. In a fury, Leopold goes so far as to put a revolver to the chief inspector's head, intending to kill him regardless and pass if off as a suicide. By then, however, the Emperor's men have already arrived at the palace, and begin hammering down the door: with no other way to escape arrest, Leopold turns the revolver on himself and commits suicide.

However, some time later, Uhl is provided with a series of papers from Eisenheim, and he finally realizes that Sophie's murder was simply the magician's last and greatest illusion: determined to find a way of escaping Vienna together, Sophie and Eisenheim successfully framed Leopold for murder, spending the weeks leading up to the final argument gathering evidence and preparing the tricks - Eisenheim even going so far as to steal a gem from the Crown Prince's sword during the Excalibur performance. On the night of the "murder," Sophie had spiked Leopold's drink, ensuring that he wouldn't be able to interfere beyond his initial temper tantrum: once she'd planted the clues in the stable, she disguised herself with fake blood and corpse makeup before leaving the palace, relying on planted medical examiners to ensure that nobody realized she was still alive. Once she was safely out of the country, Eisenheim completed the trick by engineering Leopold's fall from grace - concluding with the Crown Prince's suicide.