Entertainment News

Schemers and sex at the court of a queer king

Standing under a dark arch on a bridge leading to Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire, England, with sheep munching on the grass below, Julianne Moore made a deep curtsy, looking down at a beautifully dressed woman. “Your Majesty,” she began, before being drowned out by a loud “baa” from the sheep. Moore burst out laughing, as did fellow actress Trine Dyrholm, who played the role of England’s Queen Anne. “Talk to the sheep!” Moore commanded the director, Oliver Hermanus. “Tell them we’re making a TV miniseries!” »

This mini-series is the visually sumptuous, in seven parts “Mary and George”, peppered with sex scenes that look like Caravaggio paintings and peppered with all the good things: intrigue, intrigue, cunning and nastiness. The show, which premieres on Starz April 5was inspired by Benjamin Woolley’s 2018 non-fiction book, “The King’s Assassin” and tells the essentially true story of Mary Villiers (Moore), a 17th-century minor aristocrat with grand ambitions, and her ridiculously handsome son, George (Nicolas Galitzine)which she uses as a path to power and wealth in the court of King James I (Tony Curran).

James likes ridiculously handsome young men. “The king,” says Mary’s new husband, Lord Compton, “is a dead-eyed, horny-handed horror who surrounds himself with many deceptive, well-hung beauties.”

George’s rise is not easy: Mary must eliminate the current favorite, the Earl of Somerset (Laurie Davidson); forging and breaking alliances; and assassinate the strange adversary. George, naive and insecure, must learn to display his beauty and charm. But as the series progresses, George becomes a powerful political figure, with Mary a formidable, often antagonistic presence at his side.

“These are people who use sex not only for intimacy and relationship building, but also for power, as a transaction,” Moore said in a video interview. “What convinced me the most about Mary was that she was very aware of the limits of her choices. She had no autonomy, her only paths are through the men she is married to or through her sons. George, she says, “is almost his proxy; he has access to a world that she does not have.

Moore added that she was also intrigued by playing “a not particularly admirable character.” There’s a need and a voracity about her that is quite shocking,” she said. “She tears apart life and people.” (The only exception is his unusually tender relationship with Sandie, a brothel owner played by Niamh Algar.)

George, at least at first, is very different. “When we meet him, he is a very gentle and fragile young man,” Galitzine said. “Then little by little, because of his mother’s machinations, he turns into a rude villain.” He and Moore didn’t discuss their characters or their relationship much, he said, which informed his interpretation. “George often feels very uncomfortable around his mother, he doesn’t know if her love for him is unconditional,” he said. “In many ways, their relationship is much less tender than the one he has with James.”

The king was a fascinating and complex character to play, Curran said, and much less well known than his Tudor predecessors. “Julianne was the only American on the show and said she didn’t know much about King James. Then she came to England and realized that no one there knew much about him either,” he said. “But he was an influential monarch: a king who didn’t make war, a misunderstood king, a queer king, a Scottish king on an English throne.”

Although James’ sexuality is the driving force of the story, Curran said that surviving letters between George and the king suggest a deep relationship. “Nick and I talked about it a lot,” he said. “How their relationship developed, whether James was in love with George and whether it was mutual.”

Our current era tends to view history through a Victorian lens, said producer Liza Marshall, who developed the series after being intrigued when she heard about a lecture on James’ sexuality. “We think we invented modern sexuality, but I think people accepted the king, who was married with nine children, loved handsome young men and didn’t judge that.”

The show’s screenwriter, DC Moore (“Killing Eve”), said he knew immediately that the characters’ language “had to have wit and verve and dynamism, and be forward-thinking and unashamed.” “. He added that although he incorporated phrases from George and James’s letters and other historical sources, he had been “free and fresh in the dialogue, because I wanted people to understand that era.”

Hermanus, the main director of the series – who had never worked in television before and whose films are mostly set in modern-day South Africa – said that when he read the first three episodes he burst out laughing . “It was so funny and brave and bold and crazy,” he said. “I thought I’d love to try that, because I’ve never worked in that tone before.”

He developed an “animal and fierce” aesthetic, showing the production team and actors collages of “torn animals, pheasants attacked by dogs, swans attacked”. It felt like the right reference: eat or be eaten.

The director added that he used a lot of slow motion to enhance the pictorial settings. “You have time to absorb the details and create drama,” he said. “People look at each other: who is watching who, who is plotting against whom?

Hermanus, who directed the first three episodes (Alex Winckler and Florian Cossen were the other directors) said he insisted on wanting the sex scenes to be specific. “We had a great intimacy coordinator, and it was really great to be adventurous in how we choreographed those scenes,” he said.

Moore said she loved the vitality and urgency of the series, as well as the awareness that “this story could be told through a female lens, a queer lens.” Oliver always said it was very punk, very active and modern. She laughed. “This is not a relaxing historical drama!”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button