Dec 11, 2019 by carol adams.
Until we delve back in to history and start to re-tell these stories, we’ll never have the tools that we need in our history for women to lead and to be taken seriously and compassionately in the presentTP: The sticks women beat themselves and each other with – childlessness, promiscuity, jealousy – they appear to be the same for Mary and Elizabeth as they are for women today. JR: I don’t think that we have properly worked through those questions. People often ask me what I think feminism is and a really interesting thing happened when we were doing the end captions. The central one is about Elizabeth and the first draft I wrote read: “Elizabeth never married, never had a child and never named a successor. She reigned for 45 years.” Someone read it and flipped it back the other way around, so it read: She never did this that and the other.” That’s the best example I’ve ever come across to explain what feminism is, because what we need to be able to do is to flip that narrative around. TP: And it always seems to be other people pushing that portrayal of women – for example, the apparent fighting between Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle JR: That’s just desperately sad. I saw that on the front page of a newspaper and I felt completely crestfallen. I think there’s a desire to see women fight. Some of that is sexualised in a really naff way, and at its most difficult and divisive it is a way to undermine leadership. When men fight each other it strengthens people’s perception of their ability to lead, and when women fight each other, it dismantles it – they’re emotional, they’re distracted. TP: The sex scenes in the film show a wide spectrum of how women experience sex – there is an oral-sex scene with a strong female gaze, a purposeful impregnation and a rape. Was it important for you to distinguish between the three? JR: What’s important about those three moments is that they’re all political acts. In the “incitement to impregnate scene”, as I call it, Mary has not had the opportunity to experience the anger at her betrayal but there is an absolute and very Mary-like need to keep moving forward. Her next chess move is to become pregnant, and to sire an heir with someone who is also a Stuart and so will have a powerful claim to the throne. In the rape scene, what was really important to me is that the sexual act is incredibly mundane. Although the emotional impact of it is devastating, it’s not one of those rapes that will become fetishised because of it’s flashy violence. In my work in the theatre and on this movie – for the past decade – I have never approached a sex scene without a choreographer. It’s really crucial for me to have everyone on set remember that it’s a movement sequence, in the same way that a dance or a fight is a movement sequence. Having sex is a complex sequence of movement and lining things up, it is essentially choreographic. What you’re doing is is getting practised enough at it – the scene in the movie that probably feels the most improvised but is probably the most rehearsed is the impregnation scene. TP: There have been a few criticisms of historical inaccuracies in the film, for example Mary and Elizabeth never actually met. JR: I don’t think that’s a criticism – I think that’s a Twitter grab. I have nothing but respect for anyone wanting to build their profile through social media – welcome to the 21st century, that’s the world we live in and we’re dealing with it. But in a dramatic sense, you do need them to meet. If I told that story through the letters they wrote to each other, I can’t even tell you how angry Twitter would be, but that’s fine, they can have that debate. The thing that does irritate me, is when people use that as a jumping-off point to say that the things in the movie that portray the misogyny at the time, and what these women confronted, how they were understood as a religious and unnatural aberration as women trying to lead, how heavily the men around them conspired to keep them apart and then destroy Mary also weren’t true. The idea that that’s also a fiction is really unhelpful.