LONDON – Margot Robbie decided to take on the role of Elizabeth I for her latest feature film “Mary, Queen of Scotts” because having nothing in common with her character pushed her to take on a challenge, the Australian actress said on Wednesday.
It was not until Josie Rourke, English theater and film director, told Robbie she wanted her to interpret a woman, not a queen, that the actress agreed to take on the co-lead role in a movie that tells the story of the battle for the Scottish throne between Mary Stuart, interpreted by Irish-American Saoirse Ronan, and Elizabeth I.
“At the beginning, I hesitated a lot and I felt very scared that I would not be worthy to represent the role of a queen, I did not how to play a queen, I did not even know how to start building the character,” Robbie told EFE during an interview with the cast and director.
The movie, which is based on John Guy’s biography “Queen of Scotts,” tells the story of Mary Stuart – a Catholic who became queen of France at the tender age of 16 and who was widowed by 18 – and her return to her homeland, Scotland, to claim the throne, thus challenging her Protestant cousin Elizabeth I in an attempt to overthrow her.
“Mary, Queen of Scots’ shows two women who are rivals because of politics and religion but, at the same time, they also have a deep fascination for the other,” director Josie Rourke said.
As the narrative of the embattled queens unfolds, both women face the criticism of their male counselors who think that “showing an emotional side when a woman is in power is a symbol of weakness,” Robbie continued.
The actress went on to suggest that this pressure was evident in every-day situations today.
“A lot of women in power feel they need to harden themselves and show their tough exterior in order to not be accused of being emotional,” Robbie warned.
Her colleague Ronan agreed that things had not changed much since the 17th century on this front, saying: “Unfortunately, nowadays it is still a problem, the fact that it seems like decisions made by women need to be justified and, sometimes, they have to repress their feelings so as not to be considered weak,” Ronan said.
In the movie, the two women are different in nature, with Mary presenting a softer side than Elizabeth.
“Mary Stuart is much more emotional than Elizabeth. Despite managing important issues, she has no obligation to follow any code and she is more open, clement and forgives easily,” Ronan said.
“I am more like a man,” Robbie chimed in, talking of her character. “She cut any ties with her humanity because she thought that was what made her a worthy monarch.”
Rourke, who launched her debut in film with this movie, explained that throughout the movie she aimed to present both women as two sides of the same coin, an approach that traditionally has been accorded to male roles such as Batman and the Joker or Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty.
“I wanted to talk about women’s right to decide by themselves over their bodies and to show aspects of their lives that are still taboo topics for many people, but which are completely normal for women, such as menstruation,” Rourke explained.
“It’s both exciting and slightly sad that people think ‘Mary, Queen of Scotts’ is a modern movie because women are the main characters,” the director continued.
“What it really tells us is that there are not enough women who have been given the opportunity to tell stories,” Rourke concluded.