Northern Ireland, the future: in a post apocalyptic landscape of decaying towns and primitive technology, two people set out on a journey.
Justin Chadwick is no stranger to directing with ‘Bleak House’ ‘Spooks’ et al credited to his name. ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, however, marks his first feature film and it’s a big step for the Manchester born actor turn director. From directing the ‘Bill’ to directing A-list stars such as Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johnson, Eric Banner, Chadwick takes us through the Tudor Period with a difference. He centres the drama on the little known Mary Boleyn, sister to Anne and lover of the King. Herein, Chadwick talks us through the challenges of bringing the story to life, casting non-English actors in such a quintessentially English film and the final gruesome end to Anne Boleyn.
Q: The Tudor period- it’s been done so often. What did you think you could bring that would be fresh, exciting and epic to that period of history?
JC: Well firstly, it was a story that I didn’t know! You know I didn’t know of Mary or her relationship with the King of England or the fact she gave him a son. Of course I knew the story of Anne, but only from history books – she was more of a two-dimensional character from history. As was Henry! The Holbein paintings I know I’ve seen the big kind of portrayals of Henry, the kind of chicken drumstick eating Henry. But this was a story about Henry as a young man -as a real character, real character from history. This is a story of two siblings and a story that was behind the palace doors that I didn’t know. That’s what attracted me to it, right off the bat.
Q: How much of this story is fact and how is fiction?
Well, Philippa (Gregory) was the starting point for it. She was researching into Anne, and she saw this boat that was named after Mary- the Mary Boleyn. She thought it was a typo. But she then discovered that yes indeed Henry had had this relationship. I mean that is real, there’s written evidence. We know Mary did exist – we certainly know that she had a relationship with Henry and what was amazing is that she gave him this son and that little boy, that little blond boy, Henry Carey, who she had to name after her husband, he grew up to be his cousin, Queen Elizabeth’s, chief advisor!
Q: Do you think it was a gamble, casting non-English actors in such iconic English roles?
They’re great actors! All of them are great actors. What I really wanted from the whole cast was authenticity. Actors that would be prepared to kind of put everything that they had into it, make them as authentic as they could and to find truth in those characters. And you know Natalie has got fantastic intellect. She’s brilliantly passionately committed to the project. As soon as I talked to her I knew that she’d throw everything that she had could into it and she did! As for Scarlett she had an amazing complexity to her performance. Eric, as soon as I met Eric I knew that I’d found the right man. It’s hard to find somebody that is going to play this two-dimensional [LAUGHING] character from history as a real person! And, you know, I’m open to working with good, warm-hearted people who want to come on this journey and find authenticity in the characters.
Q: An epic tale like this lends itself so well to DVD. Have you plans for all sorts of additional stuff?
You know, the one thing that you do when you’re making a film is that you shoot more than you need. So there was a few [LAUGHING] heart-breaking moments, when I lost a couple of beautiful scenes that I didn’t want to lose. They will go on the DVD and there will be making of. I mean I shot this film on HD, which was a big risk you know for everybody, but the studio absolutely backed it. And I’m so glad I did because it really get amongst the actors and you really get amongst the drama and the emotion of the story on this medium.
Q: Finally, can you talk about the execution scene- there was such tension…
That was written in a completely different way that, that scene. And Sandy Powell, the Costume Designer who was researching into what Anne, to see what she was wearing, found this eye-witness account. She showed it to me and said, “What do you think?” and I said “We’ve got to shoot the whole thing, not only just what she was wearing and what she did on the scaffold but how she came out and what the crowd did around her.” It was so moving. I knew we’d got that right because as I went up to Natalie, she looked torn apart though. She could make you feel like that. And I knew we’d got it right cause I went up and gave her a hug and I turned round and saw all those extras there they were all in tears you know. It was just so moving. But no one expected a British Queen to be killed like that. No one had been killed like that before, no one expected them go through with it.