Filming Mary Queen Of Scots was ‘emotional, amazing’: Saoirse Ronan
Saoirse Ronan on Mary Queen Of Scots
One of Hollywood's brightest talents, Saoirse Ronan takes on the mantle of Mary Stuart in the new movie Mary Queen Of Scots, opposite Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth I.
Opening here tomorrow, the period drama is based on a new history by British historian-biographer John Guy that contradicts previous accounts of a feckless, headstrong queen determined to usurp the British throne.
In this version, Mary is portrayed as a shrewd politician who wants an alliance with her cousin Elizabeth, and is done in only by the treachery of court politicians.
The pressures of being a female monarch are dealt with differently by the two women.
While Elizabeth chooses to remain single to consolidate her power, Mary chooses to marry and become a mother.
Queen of France at 16, she is widowed at 18 and returns to Scotland to reclaim her throne. She is subjected to attacks from her rivals about her sexual conduct as she deals with betrayal, rebellion and conspiracies that drive her further apart from Elizabeth, who eventually orders Mary's execution.
To Ronan, playing a historical character was like playing any other, once research was done.
The 24-year-old Irish-American actress and three-time Oscar nominee said at our interview at the London West Hollywood hotel: "I think the biggest challenge for me emotionally was getting into my head the fact that I was playing a queen, because the queen is a thing, it is not a person, it is an idea and it is a figurehead.
"So it was lovely to start at that place and to learn everything I could about her through the history books.
"But at a certain point I needed to put that to one side and approach it like I would any other fictional role. One of the things that really helped me with that was the costumes that I wore, my Scottish accent and the choreographer who helped me focus on her physicality."
You and Robbie share just one scene in the movie, when Mary meets and begs Elizabeth for her help and protection. Did you hang out on set?
We didn't, no. We had both made the decision in rehearsals to stay apart.
We had met briefly a few times before we started through friends. So we knew the other one was cool, and we knew that we like each other.
I didn't know what she looked like (as Elizabeth), I didn't know what she was going to do with the character, nothing, and that was really helpful for me.
It just meant when we actually did that scene, both cameras simultaneously shot our close-ups as I pulled on the curtain, so we didn't rehearse that moment, we just shot it.
What you see in the film is basically two actors who had kept themselves apart for a month.
Margot was coming to the end of her journey on the film and mine was just about to begin.
So it was this very emotional, loaded day for us. And in the first take we were just sort of shaking and full of adrenaline and emotion and it was amazing.
It was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had on a film set.
What surprised you the most about Mary?
That she was politically astute. She knew how to play the game. She grew up in the French court and moved over to Scotland and she knew the wheeling and dealing of the monarchy and in the palace. She is not painted out to be that way by a lot of historians.
Since Mary was brought up in France as a child, why did you decide on a Scottish accent?
It was a discussion we definitely had. Yes, she grew up in France and was there from five to 19. But we felt it would have been weird to make a film about the Queen of Scots and for her to have a French accent.
Mary became a mother when she was your age, 24.
Yeah, I better get on it. (Laughs)
Would you like to have children?
I have always wanted to have kids. Not right now, but I would love to one day. I am close to my mum, my parents, and it's something that I always expected to have at some stage. A dog first.
The reporter is the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.