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Oh, terrific, it's Thumbelina!
~ Leopold insulting Madeline as she witnesses him kidnap Pepito before taking her hostage as well.
Your father will thank me, you spoiled brat!
~ Leopold to Pepito as he reveals his true nature to him.

Leopold, also known as Leopold the Tutor is the main antagonist of the 1998 Live-Action adaptation of Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline.

He appears to be a well meaningful tutor for Pepito, the son of the Spanish ambassador but later reveals himself to be a greedy and insane criminal seeking the Ambassadors' fortune.

He was portrayed by Ben Daniels.

Personality

While he hides his truly greedy and arrogant self, Leopold can still be quite easily irritated and chagrined when things don't quite go the way he planned. Such as when he offers the ambassadors the idea of going to the circus with Pepito (just him and Pepito), the Ambassadors ecstatically state they'll go to and Leopold concedes, though still with visible irritation.

He also has no problem with kidnapping or even hurting kids. When Madeline demands he release Pepito, the phony tutor takes her hostage as well.

He also has extreme impatience with his henchman constantly yelling at them and calling them idiots (not helped by the fact that they're actually clowns called "The Idiots).

Biography

Leopold is first seen in the film spying on the Spanish Ambassadors and their son Pepito moving into the house next door to Miss Clavel's boarding school and sees his chance. He then offers to become the boy's tutor and the ambassadors accept.

Later, Miss Clavel arrives at the Ambassador's house and Leopold answers the door. Ms. Clavel tells him that she feels that Pepito "needs an outlet for his energy" and hands out a Toolbox for the boy. When Clavel states she is taking her girls to the museum tomorrow, Leopold flirts a bit asking what she does on her day off, to which she nervously responds that she prays, then leaves.

At the museum, Madeline walks out of the class to retrieve her notebook to find Pepito holding it. As she snatches it back from his hands, Leopold calls up from an upper floor demanding the kids to keep it down since "some of us are trying to sleep" (despite wearing his everyday suit and tie). As Madeline returns to her classroom, she and the other girls get an invitation to Pepito's birthday party tomorrow.

At Pepito's party, Madeline hears talking from behind a slightly opened closet door. She peeks inside and sees a most peculiar sight—Leopold having a discussion with a guy with clown makeup. Leopold then sees Madeline at the door and signals her to leave. As Leopold closes the door, Madeline thinks over what she just witnessed, but quickly shrugs it off.

Later at the party, Pepito shows the girls his pet snake and pulls out a live mouse. As he takes the mouse to his guillotine (which he built with the toolbox from earlier) Madeline lunges at him and a brawl ensues, resulting in a swarm of Pepito's other mice to come loose and scare the other girls away. Ms. Clavel then arrives and breaks up the scuffle and demands the girls to leave. As Madeline follows the others out the door, she swipes the keys to Pepito's motorcycle.

The next morning, Madeline sees Pepito out to window yelling out to Leopold that the keys to the former's motorbike are gone. Madeline's mischievous glee is quickly cut off however, as Leopold pulls out a paperclip and activates the bike. Madeline then throws the bike keys to the floor and closes the window. Later, hoping to sabotage Lord Covington's efforts to sell the house, the girls unscrew the hinges from one door (so that it will fall to the floor) and hide some pungent cheese to make things smell bad inside the house. Pepito then sets off many firecrackers in the yard to startle Covington and scare the potential buyers away.

Later that night, Covington confronts Pepito's parents stating that their son is a "menace". The ambassadors come up to Leopold and ask him about what Covington told them, Leopold states that Pepito is quite well-behaved. However, Leopold does state that Pepito does need a little diversion and proposes that he take him to the circus tomorrow. The ambassadors then ecstatically state that they'll all go. Leopold tries to insist that it's just for him and Pepito but the ambassadors are too excited to listen to him and Leopold irritably concedes. Meanwhile, Lord Covington discovers Genevive (the dog who rescued Madeline from drowning in the Seine) and forces her to run away, to the heartbreak of the 12 girls.

The next morning, Ms Clavel and the girls leave early to seach for their dog, to no success. Helene (Ms. Clavel's kitchen maid) then suggests that they to go attend the circus to get their sorrowful minds off their lost dog and Ms. Clavel agrees.

At the carnival, everyone is having the time of their lives (especially Pepito watching the Idiots Popopov do their clown act). Madeline, still upset about losing Genevieve and her school's impending foreclosure, tells one of the other girls Aggie that she intends to run away with the circus and forces Aggie not to tell Ms. Clavel.

Back at the clown act, as the Idiots  call up Pepito's parents up to the stage, Leopold suddenly grabs Pepito by the arm and drags him away. As Madeline prepares to join the circus she spots Leopold holding a screaming Pepito over his shoulder. Madeline furiously confronts Leopold, confirming her suspicions that he is not a tutor. She then demands Leopold to release Pepito only for Leopold to grab her as well. He and his three Idiot clown henchmen then tie her and Pepito to the back of his truck and drive off just as a heavy rainstorm hits and the crowd hastily leaves the circus.

No sooner does Ms Clavel and the other 11 girls arrive home does she realize Madeline is gone and Aggie explains that she went to join the circus and Ms. Clavel leaves out the door. She then sees the ambassadors reporting their missing son to a police officer. When Ms. Clavel tells the officer that Madeline's also missing, the cop bluntly tells her to leave this to professionals. Ms Clavel quickly leaves anyway to rescue Madeline herself. As she does so, she spots Genevieve in the alley and urges the dog to hop in the car (despite her heavy dog allergies).

Meanwhile, in the back of Leopold's truck, Madeline and Pepito begin to lose hope when they spot the giant sharp knives the Idiots used for their circus act. The kids rub their bonds against the knives to free themselves. Madeline then spots the motorcycle the idiots also used for their circus act. They climb onto the bike with Pepito in front and Madeline clutching his chest. Madeline pulls out her hair pin into the ignition and the bike begins to stir. Just as Leopold prepares to drive off, the kids burst through the truck doors on the motorbike to escape. Enraged, Leopold orders the Idiots to climb aboard and they give chase (though inadvertently leave one of the henchmen behind).

Just Madeline and Pepito laugh at their victory, Leopold's truck comes up behind them, quickly gaining on them. The kids pick up speed but the truck remains on their tail. Just then, Ms Clavel drives up around the corner, heading straight for the truck. Leopold and the idiots quickly swerve to avoid a collision, only for the truck to splash into the lake. As the sputtering villains surface, Madeline and Pepito cheer with victory. As the kids and Ms. Clavel embrace each other, a police car then pulls up in front of the kidnappers, and Leopold and his henchmen are arrested.

Quotes

Hello. A nun. Leopold's the name. Tutoring's the game.
~ Leopold introducing himself to Ms. Clavel

Trivia

  • While the film makes it seem like Lord Covington (also known as "Cucuface") is the main antagonist (with his intention of selling the boarding school being what drives the main plot), Leopold is revealed to be the true villain because he had bigger plans than Covington.
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