The queer rom-com by Casey McQuiston, which was first published in 2019, follows Alex Claremont-Diaz – the son of the US president – as he falls in love with the UK’s Prince Henry. The pair then embark on a secret transatlantic romance that could have big repercussions for both countries.
Both the book and the film have won praise for their representation of queer romance, and the movie – which has been praised by critics with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 75% – is still riding high on Prime’s most-watched list.
However, if you hadn’t read the book before stumbling upon the film, what you might not realise is that there are a number of key differences between them…
In the book, Alex has a sister called June, and together with his best friend, the vice president’s granddaughter Nora, they form the White House Trio, who are adored by the US tabloid press.
June herself is also an aspiring journalist, who is frustrated that her mother’s role as president is holding back her career. She is also a confidante of Alex’s, with the siblings being extremely close. However, she is removed completely from the film.
Also in the book, it’s June who an attraction to Henry’s best friend Pez, whereas in the film, it is Nora and Pez who enjoy a flirtation.
Another big difference in Alex’s family is that in the book, his parents are divorced, with his mum being remarried to a character called Leo.
HIs father Oscar also has a somewhat complicated relationship with his ex-wife, the US president Ellen Claremont, as she becomes frustrated with his input into her campaign for re-election.
Stephen Fry makes a surprising turn as Prince Henry’s grandfather King James III in the film, which marks a big difference from the book, where the monarch is actually a woman.
Queen Mary plays much more of a role in the final chapters of Henry and Alex’s story, and is actually blackmailed by Henry’s mother into allowing him to speak publicly about his relationship.
Explaining the switch, Lopez told US Weekly: “Well, there were two reasons. One, I was trying to really differentiate as much as possible our fictional royal family from the actual royal family.
“While Her Majesty was still alive at the time, I also knew that for most of the life of this film, most people will access it while there is a King of [the UK]. Between King Charles, Prince William, Prince George — for most of our lifetime, there will always be a King. And so, I wanted to sort of make sure that the film in some ways made sense to people for a hundred years.”
Alex’s coming out
While Alex is comfortable in his bisexuality in both the film and the book, the journey to understanding himself is a longer process in the novel, where his kiss with Henry initially confuses him.
In the film, Alex had previously fooled around with a guy in college as well as journalist Miguel Ramos, whereas in the book, he had much less experience.
After Henry kissed him, Alex is depicted analysing his feelings for male celebrities, and his complicated relationship with his high school best friend Liam, who he used to mutually masturbate with, not thinking anything of it at the time.
After a later phone call to apologise to Liam, Alex later sees him again at Ellen’s victory party, where Liam introduces him to his boyfriend.
Explaining why Alex’s relationship with his sexuality is different in his adaptation, Lopez told Teen Vogue: “The main reason, honestly, was that I hired two actors who were a little older than the characters in the book…
“To my mind, the Alex that I was presenting via Taylor [Zakhar Perez] had enough self-knowledge to be able to say, yeah, that’s part of the constellation of my identity. So that is a huge change from the book, and it was one that I felt was really needed in order to present a more sort of on-his-way-to-being-self-actualised, as we find him.
“Because the other thing is… you’ve got precious time in a movie. Any time that I spend having Alex trying to figure out his sexuality is less time that I can devote to Alex trying to figure out his feelings for Henry. And that’s what’s really important, right? Henry.”
Prince Henry’s sister Beatrice has much more of a backstory in Casey McQuiston’s novel, as she is a recovering cocaine addict who the tabloids nickname “The Powder Princess”.
She is depicted as having turned to partying as a way of dealing with her father’s death, before her family got her into rehab.
Further details about her addiction were published in the press when Alex and Henry’s emails were leaked. None of this made it into the film version, however.
The leaking of the Waterloo Letters
In the movie, it is suggested that journalist Miguel Ramos – a character invented for the screen adaptation – exposed Alex and Henry’s emails, but in the book, it is discovered that Ellen Claremont-Diaz’s opposition Jeffrey Richards and his team were responsible for hacking the Palace servers in their bid to pull ahead in the election race.
There are also some differences in the lead up to the Waterloo Letters leaking, as in the movie, it is CCTV footage from Alex and Henry’s visit to the V&A Museum that first arises suspicions.
Meanwhile, in the book, this trip is not what exposes them. Instead, it is a long-lens photographer who captures a kiss between them in the back of a car.
Luna is a pivotal character in the book, who is central in the aftermath of the Waterloo Letters being published, but is completely erased from the film.
He is a young independent US senator who Alex previously worked with, and supports Alex’s mother Ellen.
The Claremont-Diaz family are left stunned halfway through the book when he defects to support the Republican candidate Jeffery Richards. However, it is later revealed that he joined the Richards camp as a double agent in a bid to avenge how the presidential candidate sexually harassed him early into his political career.
When Luna realises it was Richards’ camp who hacked the Palace servers and leaked Alex and Henry’s emails, he anonymously sends evidence to Nora to piece together and take to the press.
Other missing characters
While Henry’s mother gets only a fleeting mention in the film, Princess Catherine is developed more in the book. It is understood in the novel that she has been largely absent from Henry and Bea’s lives since the death of their father, too stricken by grief to conduct public duties and take an interest in her children.
However, she steps up for son after he is outed and goes into battle with her mother Queen Mary, as she tries to forbid Henry from seeing Alex again.
Catherine threatens to try and overthrow her mother on the throne by leaking to the press that the aging Queen is no longer up to the job, unless she accepts Henry’s relationship.
As well as Leo, June, Luna and Catherine, other missing characters are Cassius/Cash, who is another member of the White House security team in the book, and Nora’s grandfather, and Ellen’s vice president Mike Holleran.
Explaining why certain characters were cut out, director Matthew Lopez told BuzzFeed: “First and foremost, it was about Alex and Henry for me, and inevitably there were going to be things left out. If it’s not about Alex and Henry, it doesn’t belong in the film – that was reinforced when I was editing the movie.”
“There are some things we filmed that are in the novel that I had to take out. It was very clear to me the first time I saw an assembly of the film that anything not relevant to their love story just didn’t belong in it.”
Missing sex scenes
While the movie doesn’t shy away from depicting the intimacy between Alex and Henry in the same passionate and steamy way the book does, there are notably fewer of these scenes compared to the book.
In one memorable encounter in the novel, Alex and Henry get it on at Wimbledon, after the prince invites Alex to come and watch a match in the Royal box, while their passion in the tack room at the polo is also cut short in the film.
Red, White & Royal Blue is now streaming on Prime Video.