"I kind of forgot there were cameras there"

Interview with Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan
Last year, Margot was nominated for Oscar for I, Tonya, Saoirse for Lady Bird.They are young, talented, beautiful and both are on the top. In Mary Queen of Scots, they play Stuart Mary and Elizabeth to show they're the best of their generation.
Can we talk about the one pivotal scene you have together when the two Queens finally meet. Talk us through it…
Robbie: The filming schedule was broken up by what took place in England and then the company moved to Scotland and shot everything that took place in Scotland and then we have that fictional meeting, which happened to fall on my last day of shooting and Saoirse’s first day of shooting so it was a very emotionally charged day on set to begin with. But also on top of that there was so much anticipation around it – it was such a crucial moment to depict on screen and there was such a build up in both of our minds having gone on this journey. Saoirse has been thinking about this character for six years – she has been attached since she was 18 and I had gone through my whole part of playing her up until this point, obsessing about Mary this entire time, and to see her standing in front of me was incredibly emotional and we ended up just bawling our eyes out.

So you hadn’t really met each other in character before that scene?
We hadn’t met each other in character until that moment. We briefly read the scene in rehearsals; we didn’t drill it, we kind of left it to the day because we knew it was going to work. We stayed away from each other for the entire shoot until that moment and we definitely never saw a glimpse of each other in character so it was a really big reveal and a very emotional moment. I kind of forgot there were cameras there - I forgot everything.

What was the thinking behind that?
Because there is such a build up in the film, ‘will they meet? Won’t they meet?’ And they keep trying to but they are held apart by all the advisors around them so there was such anticipation and, historically speaking, they never met so to see that portrayed on screen was a big moment. Josie talked about like the moment in Heat when Robert De Niro and Al Pacino meet and it’s these two people who have been playing cat and mouse the whole time finally meet each other. In our film Mary and Elizabeth have been playing this intricate game of political chess for so long and every move is so emotionally charged and to really face off in that moment it’s more than just a work chat – their sisterhood is at stake.
Ronan: The idea was about image and how much stronger the idea of an image was back then because all they had was letters and portraits. I had spent so long imagining what Margot was going to look like as Elizabeth and even how she was going to play it, to actually be in the room with her meant that I was feeling it as much as Mary would have done when she first met Elizabeth in our story.”

We see stories in the tabloids right now where they are trying to portray Meghan, Duchess of Sussex as being against Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge…
They are saying there’s a feud between them, which is silly.
Robbie: They are always portraying women against each other…

Is your film also about this in a way – the men in both courts trying to pit the Queens against each other?
Ronan: Yes, it is. The Lords around Mary and Elizabeth paint the girls as the enemy and try and infiltrate that thought process of the two Queens and how they view the other person. And it’s all seeds that have been planted by William Cecil (Guy Pearce) and for Mary in the north it’s Moray (James McArdle) and the other Lords in the court. And the thing is, it was quite amazing for me to work with a group of women and women work really well together – it’s fun and more often than not it’s a really safe space to be in. And the confidence I certainly found by Margot and I working together and myself and the four Marys (*Queen Mary’s courtiers) working together was the confidence to maybe come out of yourself even a little bit more because you are with your sisters.
Robbie: Yes because you feel supported.

Saoirse, could you have played Mary when you were 18?
I could have done but it would have been a different version of her, for sure, and the beauty of this role is that she had such a big life and so much happened to her at every stage of that you could have made a film about; her leaving Scotland when she was 5 and being in the French court for 12 years or the version we made or when she was under house arrest or just about the day of her execution. You could have done so many things.

Was it necessary to learn French for the role?
It was and I had an amazing teacher and he didn’t let me get away with anything (laughs). I thought I was doing well and he would be like ‘no, no, again!’ And it was really helpful because I think like Liah (O’Prey, who plays Mary Livingstone), one of the girls in the film, she is half French and half Irish and even her cadence, when she speaks in English with an Irish accent, is still quite French. So I think it was important to hold on to a bit of that even when I spoke in English.

Tulu/UIP-Duna Film

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This week...
Budapest, Műcsarnok, 26 April 2019 - 25 August 2019
Budapest, 02 April 2019 - 31 May 2019
Budapest, Örkény István Színház, 29 April 2019 - 26 May 2019
Budapest, Műcsarnok, 01 March 2019 - 02 June 2019
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