In 1876, Leopold Alexis Elijah Walker Gareth Thomas Mountbatten, Duke of Albany and future inventor of the elevator, is a stifled dreamer. Strict Uncle Millard (Paxton Whitehead) has no patience forLeopold's disrespect for the monarchy, chastising him and telling him he must marry a rich American, as the Mountbatten family finances are depleted. His uncle has told him that on his "thirtiethbirthday he had become a blemish to the family name".
The Duke finds Stuart Besser (Liev Schreiber), an amateur physicist (and descendant of Leopold, according to deleted scenes) perusing his schematicdiagrams and taking photographs of them. He had seen him earlier at Roebling's speech about the Brooklyn Bridge. Leopold follows Stuart and tries to save him from what he thinks is a suicide, fallingafter him into the portal that brought the man there in the first place.
Leopold awakens in 21st century New York. He is at first confused and thinks that he has been kidnapped. Stuart says thathe has created formulae to forecast portals in the temporal universe and that Leopold must stay inside his apartment until the portal opens again a week later. As Stuart takes his dog out, he isinjured by falling into the elevator shaft, and is eventually institutionalized for speaking about his scientific discovery.
Leopold is intrigued by the cynical and ambitious Kate McKay (Meg Ryan),Stuart's ex-girlfriend, who comes to the apartment for her Palm Pilot stylus. He observes that she is a "career woman" and that her field, market research, is a fine avocation for a woman and states thathe once dated a librarian from Sussex. Kate dismisses him and demands that he take Stuart's dog for a walk. Leopold is overwhelmed to see that Roebling's bridge is still standing. Back at theapartment, he befriends Charlie (Breckin Meyer), Kate's brother and an actor between gigs, who believes him to be an actor as well, steadfast to his character.
Kate and Leopold become romantically...
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