Mary Queen of Scots (2018 film)
Mary Queen of Scots is a 2018 historical drama film directed by Josie Rourke and written by Beau Willimon, based on John Guy's biography Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as Mary, Queen of Scots and Margot Robbie as her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, and chronicles the 1569 conflict between their two countries. Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, Gemma Chan, and Guy Pearce also star in supporting roles.
|Mary Queen of Scots|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Josie Rourke|
|Screenplay by||Beau Willimon|
|Based on||Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart|
by John Guy
|Music by||Max Richter|
|Edited by||Chris Dickens|
|Box office||$46.4 million|
Mary Queen of Scots had its world premiere on closing night of AFI Fest on 15 November 2018, was released in the United States on 7 December 2018, and was released in the United Kingdom on 18 January 2019. The film received favourable reviews, with praise for the performances (particularly Ronan and Robbie) and costumes, but was criticised for the screenplay and several historical inaccuracies. The film received three nominations at the 72nd British Academy Film Awards, and two nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling at the 91st Academy Awards. For her performance, Robbie earned nominations for a SAG Award and BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress, respectively.
In 1561, nineteen-year-old Mary Stuart, Catholic Queen of Scotland, returns to her home country from France following the death of her husband, Francis II of France, to take up her throne, where she is received by her half brother, the Earl of Moray. In neighbouring England, her twenty-eight-year-old cousin Elizabeth is Protestant Queen of England — unmarried, childless, and threatened by Mary's potential claim to her throne. Mary soon clashes with the cleric John Knox and dismisses him from her court. Knox is a protestant and leader of the Scottish Reformation and perceives Mary to be a danger to the kingdom's Protestant supremacy.
In an attempt to weaken her cousin's threat to her sovereignty, Elizabeth arranges for Mary, whom the English Catholics recognize as their rightful Queen, to be married to an Englishman. She chooses Robert Dudley, whom she secretly loves, to propose to Mary. Both are unwilling to be married to each other, but the news of Elizabeth's smallpox convinces Mary to take the offer provided that Mary is named Elizabeth's heir apparent. Reluctant to let go of Dudley, Elizabeth secretly sends Lord Darnley to Scotland under the pretence of living under their religious freedom. Despite initially sensing an ulterior motive on Darnley's part, Mary gradually grows fond of Darnley and eventually accepts his marriage proposal.
Mary's impending marriage to Darnley causes a constitutional crisis within both realms: In England, Elizabeth is advised by her court to oppose the marriage for fear that Darnley, an English noble, will elevate Mary's claim to the Crown. In Scotland, Mary's council is suspicious of Darnley as they fear an English takeover. Both kingdoms demand his return to England, but Mary refuses, thus enraging Moray to furiously leave her court and mount a rebellion against her. Darnley marries Mary, only for her to discover him in bed with her friend and private secretary, David Rizzio, the following morning. Faced with insurgency and infidelity, Mary decides to quash the rebel forces but spares both Rizzio and Moray. She demands Darnley give her a child. When a child is conceived, Mary declares that the child is the "heir to Scotland and England" — which deeply offends the English.
Moray colludes with Darnley's father Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, to undermine Mary, spreading rumours about Mary's adultery and that her child was illegitimately fathered by Rizzio. Hearing the rumours, John Knox vehemently preaches to his parish that Mary is an adulteress. Fearing the accusations against Mary and the possible discovery of his homosexuality, Darnley is coerced by the under-miners to join them in murdering Rizzio and reluctantly delivers the final blow. Mary discovers the plot and agrees to pardon the men involved provided that she is presented with the evidence that Darnley had taken part. She ultimately forgives Moray and asks Elizabeth to be her child's godmother. Together, they agree that the child is heir presumptive, much to the chagrin of the English court. Mary banishes Darnley but refuses to divorce him despite the appeals of her council, which then approaches her adviser and protector, the Earl of Bothwell, to have him killed. In the ensuing melee after Darnley's death, Mary is forced to flee and leave her child behind. The following morning, Bothwell advises that her council have decided that she marry a Scotsman immediately, which she hesitantly agrees to. This induces Knox to preach to the Scots that Mary is a "harlot" who had her husband killed, leading Moray and the rest of her court to demand her abdication. Despite furiously objecting to it, Mary eventually abdicates her throne and flees to England.
Learning of Mary's arrival in England, Elizabeth arranges for a clandestine meeting with her. Mary asks for Elizabeth's help to take back her throne. Elizabeth is reluctant to go to war on behalf of a Catholic, but instead promises a safe exile in England as long as Mary does not aid her enemies. Mary indignantly responds that if she does, it will only be because Elizabeth forced her to do so, and threatens that should Elizabeth murder her, she should remember that she "murdered her own sister and queen". Elizabeth orders that Mary be placed under house arrest in England and eventually receives compelling evidence that Mary had conspired with her enemies to have her assassinated. Pressured, and with no other choice, Elizabeth ultimately orders Mary's execution. As Mary is walked to the scaffold, a remorseful Elizabeth cries for Mary, who reveals a bright red dress, implying herself a martyr. In her final thoughts, Mary wishes her son James well and hopes for peace upon his reign.
The post-script reveals that upon Elizabeth's death in 1603, James became the first monarch to rule both Scotland and England.
- Saoirse Ronan as Mary, Queen of Scots, the Queen of Scotland and Elizabeth's cousin
- Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots' cousin and the Queen of England and Ireland
- Guy Pearce as William Cecil, advisor to Queen Elizabeth
- David Tennant as John Knox, a Protestant cleric
- Jack Lowden as Lord Darnley, Mary, Queen of Scots' second husband
- Joe Alwyn as Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth's counselor and lover
- Gemma Chan as Elizabeth Hardwick, a friend and confidante of Elizabeth I and keeper of Mary, Queen of Scots.
- Martin Compston as Earl of Bothwell, Mary, Queen of Scots' third husband
- Ismael Cruz Córdova as David Rizzio, Mary's close friend and confidant.
- Brendan Coyle as Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, father of Lord Darnley
- Ian Hart as Lord Maitland
- Adrian Lester as Lord Thomas Randolph
- James McArdle as the Earl of Moray, Regent of Scotland
- Maria-Victoria Dragus as Mary Fleming, a Scottish noblewoman, childhood friend and half-first cousin of Mary, Queen of Scots.
- Eileen O’Higgins as Mary Beaton, attendant of Mary, Queen of Scots
- Izuka Hoyle as Mary Seton, attendant of Mary, Queen of Scots.
- Liah O’Prey as Mary Livingston, attendant of Mary, Queen of Scots.
- Alex Beckett as Walter Mildmay, English Chancellor of the Exchequer[N 1]
- Simon Russell Beale as Robert Beale
- Andrew Rothney as James VI, Mary, Queen of Scots' son and heir
The film was originally planned to be a Scarlett Johansson vehicle, scheduled to begin shooting in mid-2007 on a $25–30 million budget. After Johansson dropped out, the film languished in development hell for several years. On 9 August 2012, it was announced that Saoirse Ronan would play the title role of Mary Stuart. On 21 April 2017, it was announced that Margot Robbie was cast to play Queen Elizabeth I, and that the film was scheduled to commence principal photography in August 2017. The film based on John Guy's biography My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots would be produced by Working Title's Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Debra Hayward, and HBI Production’s James Biggam. Josie Rourke was announced to direct the film from an adapted screenplay by Beau Willimon.
On 13 June 2017, Jack Lowden was announced to play Lord Darnley, while Joe Alwyn was announced to play Robert Dudley. On 22 June 2017, it was reported that Martin Compston was cast in the film to play James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, the third husband of Stuart. On 23 June 2017, German-Romanian actress Maria-Victoria Dragus had also joined the cast to play Scottish noblewoman and childhood friend of Stuart, Mary Fleming, marking her English-language debut in film, having a minor role previously in Australian teen drama Dance Academy. On 17 August 2017, Brendan Coyle, David Tennant, and Guy Pearce joined the cast, followed by Gemma Chan the next day. On 22 August, Ismael Cruz Córdova was cast to play David Rizzio, Mary's close friend and confidant.
Focus Features handle the domestic rights while Universal Pictures handle the international distribution. The crew on the film includes Academy Award winners costume designer Alexandra Byrne, hair and make-up designer Jenny Shircore and editor Chris Dickens; Emmy Award-winning production designer James Merifield; and BAFTA Award-winning cinematographer John Mathieson.
It had its world premiere at the closing night gala of AFI Fest on 15 November 2018 in Los Angeles, CA. The film was released in the United States on 7 December 2018, and in the United Kingdom on 18 January 2019.
Historians and fans have heavily criticised the inaccuracies of the story. Mary and Elizabeth's letters to each other were their only sources of communication, and they never saw each other face to face.
Estelle Paranque, an expert on Queen Elizabeth I, told The Telegraph: "It shows a friendship at first, but there was not a friendship, Elizabeth tried to be kind to her at first but Mary never saw Elizabeth as an equal. She saw her as a rival from the start."
The movie portrays the English ambassador to the Scottish Court, Lord Thomas Randolph, as a black man, which he was not. Gemma Chan's character is Elizabeth Hardwick, who in real life was white. Director Josie Rourke told the L.A. Times: "I was really clear, I would not direct an all-white period drama."
In the film Mary is referred to several times as the 'Queen of Scotland'. However, as a popular monarchy the Scottish monarch was instead titled the [King/Queen] of Scots (as the film's title and eponymous character accurately states), something which was the norm until usage started to decline during the reigns of William II and Mary II.
Mary Queen of Scots grossed $16.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $29.9 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $46.4 million.
The film made $194,777 from four theaters in its opening weekend, an average of $48,694 per venue.  It expanded to 795 theaters in its third weekend, grossing $2.8 million, and then to 841 in its fourth, making $2.7 million.
Reviewers criticised the film's historicity, its plotting and its sex scenes. Emily Yoshida of New York magazine's Vulture site called it "a kind of nothing of a film. It's neither a rigorous history lesson nor a particularly interesting work of drama and character"; Shane Watson of The Telegraph called it "history porn for the Instagram generation"; while A.O. Scott of The New York Times said that "students of Scottish history may be surprised to learn that the fate of the nation was partly decided by an act of cunnilingus."
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 63% based on 259 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Mary Queen of Scots delivers uneven period political thrills while offering a brilliant showcase for the talents of its well-matched leads." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 60 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film 2.5 out of 5 stars and a 38% "definite recommend".
- Beckett died on 10 April 2018, prior to the film's release, marking this his final film appearance. The film is dedicated in Alex Beckett's memory.
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