A man who lives for pleasure finds his hedonism betrays him in time in this film adaptation of the play by Stephen Jeffreys. The second Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot (Johnny Depp), was a notorious figure in 17th century Europe; well-respected as a poet and author, Wilmot also earned no small degree of gossip for his freewheeling sex life and appetite for decadence. Wilmot was close friends with Charles II (John Malkovich), the powerful and Machiavellian ruler of England, and enjoyed a passionate romance with Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton), an actress of note. But Wilmot's seemingly charmed life took a turn for the worse when he wrote a satirical play lampooning his friend Charles II; the monarch failed to see the humor, and exiled the author from Britain. Wilmot found little solace in his relationship with Barry, especially after he contracted syphilis and began drinking heavily as the disease tore away at his body and his mind. The Libertine was produced in part by John Malkovich, who played the role of John Wilmot in a production of Stephen Jeffreys' original play.