Splendour and tribulations at the English court
In this costume drama – which retraces one of the most important and turbulent chapters in the history of the British monarchy and Church – Manchester-born director Justin Chadwick, making his feature film debut, managed to put together his "dream cast". This includes Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson in the roles of Anne and Mary Boleyn, Eric Bana as Henry VIII and Kristin Scott Thomas (seen onscreen yesterday at the Berlinale Palast in I’ve Loved You So Long [+see also:
film profile]) as the mother of the king’s two "whores".
This £20m US/UK co-production (between Ruby Films, Scott Rudin Productions and BBC Films) shot entirely in the UK (namely at Elstree Studios, in Kent, Derbyshire and Wiltshire) is an adaptation by Peter Morgan (The Queen [+see also:
interview: Andy Harries
interview: Stephen Frears
film profile]) of Philippa Gregory’s eponymous novel.
Aesthetically, the film remains a classic historical drama (despite the use, which was questioned by some, of HDCAM SR technology) but the characters are quite subtly and cleverly constructed. Avoiding over-simplification, the wildly differing personalities of the gentle Mary and the ambitious Anne – who forces the king to break with the papacy in order to divorce his first wife so that she can become queen – are well rendered.
Henry VIII himself is fascinating for the way in which he embodies supreme power and carnal weakness, making him easy to manipulate and enabling the Boleyn girls to act as pawns in a game of court favours, whilst at the same time allowing them to wield a great deal of influence over the king’s destiny.
During the press conference, Portman spoke of the film’s emphasis on the glamour and scandals of a period that could be imagined as austere. Chadwick added that he wanted to give his film a modern feel.
The two actresses were nonetheless keen to explore the history of the16th century. Asked about her preparative research, Johansson explained that the fact that Gregory’s book is written in the first person helped her to understand Mary more fully and that the beautiful costumes – the opulence of the fabrics and the stiffness of the corsets – helped the actors immerse themselves in their roles.
Sales for The Other Boleyn Girl are being managed by Universal Pictures International.
(Translated from French)
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