Recreating Queen Victoria’s jeweled existence

Emily Blunt, the actress who plays Queen Victoria in the movie “The Young Victoria,” recently attended a showing of the film in Los Angeles and stayed afterward to answer some questions. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

What makes this film’s portrayal of the queen unique?
When I was first reading up about this film, I had no idea that there was this feisty, remarkable girl beneath the black, dour, sour-faced exterior that I’d become aware of in history class at school. So I think I was as surprised as everyone else. I think that everyone knows about the mourning and the grief and the unhappiness, but no one knows about the love and the passion [of Victoria]. Hopefully this film, if it does anything, will help people understand why she mourned [Prince Albert] so ferociously.

What was the biggest challenge in portraying this character?
As much as I could, I tried to approach her as the girl rather than the queen because she’s a teenage girl, who is in love and in a job where she’s in way over her head. And, at the end of the day, that’s at least a starting point that I can understand. But subconsciously, the more I read about her, the more I absorbed about her, I think I understood Victoria more than any other character I’ve played.

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Sarah Ferguson (Duchess of York) is a producer for this film. Did you meet her while you were making the movie?
She came along when we were doing the coronation scene. We were filming it in Lincoln Cathedral, and she came and made tea for everyone; which was very nice, you know. I think she’s so thrilled that this film got made because she had the initial idea. But I think once it started snowballing she very much took a backseat and she said, “I don’t know anything about filmmaking, so you go make it. I’ll come and say hi once in awhile.” And then she’s been pushing it so hard since we’re now opening the movie. She’s been very supportive.

But it’s [also] interesting to talk to her because I got to know more since. She sympathizes — or empathizes, rather — more with Albert being the guest of the house, the outsider. And it was interesting talking to her about that.

What was the most difficult scene to film for you?
I found the very young stuff the trickiest, partly because of the hairstyle. (laughs) I remember looking in the mirror and being like, “I literally look like a spaniel.” I mean, to what dogs looking like their owners, I was right on there. But I think it’s quite tricky to find that balance because it was a longer time ago when I was 17, 18. So I wanted to recollect what being at that age actually was. So that was quite tricky.

I think the other scene that I found hard but that I loved — it was one of my favorites to do — was the scene where I meet the Privy counsel for the first time. I’d read so much about that day in [Victoria’s] life where she was so nervous; she’d lost her uncle, she knew they were all going to judge her, she knew that they thought that she was just a little girl who couldn’t handle it. It was the first time really where she’d have to speak publicly like that, so that scene for me was really interesting. There was all this emotion going on and she was so desperate to do a good job, and then I just had to sort of suppress it all, and try and act like I was composed. So I really enjoyed that scene because as an actor there was so much to play with.

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As an actor, what was it like to balance the public and private sides of Victoria?
She definitely lived a jeweled existence. And that’s what I appreciated about the script, that it gave room for that. You get to see what a performance it was for her to be out in the public and the composure that she needed to rally every time something awful was happening; she had to just submarine it. So that was interesting to play as well; that was really fun. The ambiguity of that that you get to play with, [where you had to] suppress all of that that’s going on. And I think, also, that you get to see the private side where she’s slamming doors and having a hissy fit, as we say in the UK.

(Thank you to promoter Brian Gross for providing the transcript and videos!)

Fergie talks about "The Young Victoria"

Today I have a new interview with Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York! She is one of the producers of the movie “The Young Victoria,” which will be released in the US on December 18. (Thank you to Brian Gross for providing the interview and photos.)

How involved were you with the film once [fellow producers] King and Scorsese took part?
I left it to the brilliance of those people and Julian Fellows and Jean-Marc Vallee. I don’t tell a hairdresser how to do my hair and I was very honored they gave me the producer title and I said that I would honor it in the right way for this film which would be to open up on location, provide research and history, make sure that Alistair Bruce, my friend, was there to really make sure that everything was done the exact right way and how to address people and then I said my bit would come at the end when I talked about it.

What challenges/roadblocks stood in the way of the film being made?
It took me 15 years to be made and the first challenges were to ask everyone to keep to history and not to try and make it too much into entertainment but really tell the real story of the untold story of love. It’s so good it didn’t need to be sort of hyped up. Somebody once wrote a script for me and they had a certain sex scene going on and I said but that just did not happen. It’s not written down anywhere and I said please don’t. So we tore the script up and we waited and 5 years ago Graham said we’ll do it. He was so great. He kept all his promises. He said I’ll do it in Britain I’ll film in Britain even if it costs more and we were over budget and no one got paid properly he still kept his promises.

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Julian Fellowes is an Academy Award winning writer for Gosford Park – what was it about his approach that let you know he was the best fit for The Young Victoria?
Julian Fellows is one of the nicest most brilliant people I’ve met. He has such a brilliant ability, and I like his wife Emma who’s fabulous. He’s like, Alastair Bruce the historian, like a cousin of theirs so it always felt like family. I knew that the Queen of England loves Gosford Park and Julian Fellows so I knew very much that we would be going out with a movie which the whole family would appreciate rather than this, ugh, we don’t put our name to that. So with Julian there, Graham King’s from Britain, the whole thing is very British, it’s certainly, it’s gone out with great strength of honesty to history and I’m proud about it.

Did you have any hesitations with your daughter, Princess Beatrice, taking part in the film?  Whose idea was it for her to get involved?
Both of them are so proud about this film that they of course loved sitting going on set and when they were on set of course it was then decided that Beatrice could go and do that and she jumped at it with both feet. She came from school where she did drama so for her it was just big dresses and just being on set. What this film has taught me just is how hard Hollywood works. Hollywood is not just entertainment, it’s about the behind the scenes, what everyone does. I’ve never seen such hard work. It’s really extraordinary and has to be heralded. I often took myself, go to the cinema and look at the big screen, walk out and go yeah that’s good but never contemplate just what it takes. I think it’s incredible. I’m happy with whatever both girls decide to do because I believe a real mother should be there to guide, be a role model, and to listen, but never to preach or teach.

What is Beatrice’s impression of the whole experience?
I think Beatrice would like to be in that century and I keep trying to tell her well it’s not going to happen dear. She really is so responsible; she was born to be a princess. She’s got it in her blood. She just has a sense of duty and responsibility that I’ve never seen in another human being.

You’ve written two [books] about the life of Queen Victoria – is there a particular connection you feel you have with her?
I find her sense of cheekiness. I find her sense of humor. I find that she’s so strong and bold and I often have days when I allow people to push me around and I often think what would she do. There’s no way she’d put up with it so why am I?

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Are there other stories about the Royal Family, as captivating as Queen Victoria’s, that you’d like to see brought to the big screen?
Well when Graham left cinema, he held my hand and said Sarah come and see me next week with some more ideas. I rubbed my hands with glee because I have two corkers of stories which no one has heard before and I think they should be seen on the big screen. Strong, historic, royal women.

Martin Scorsese discusses "The Young Victoria"

The movie “The Young Victoria,” about the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign and her romance with her husband, Prince Albert, will finally be released in the US on December 18. The movie was produced by Graham King, Martin Scorsese, Tim Headington, and Sarah, Duchess of York (ex-wife of Britain’s Prince Andrew).

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Below is an interview with Martin Scorsese about the movie. The interview and photos were provided to The World of Royalty by a promoter named Brian Gross. I’ll have a few more posts with videos and images from the movie in coming days!

The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, first mentioned the idea for a film on Queen Victoria to Graham King. What was your initial reaction when Graham told you about it?
I was intrigued. Over the years, I’ve become more and more interested in history – reading as much as I can. And the idea of a film that is really about the acquisition of power, the young life of a woman who took the throne at the age of 18, and who eventually became not just the Queen of England but a ruler who left such an indelible mark on her own time that an entire era was named after her – that’s what really struck me.

What kind of approach does a director need to take to a period film in order to bring in a young, contemporary audience?
I suppose that you need to make the past present – that’s the best way of putting it. Of course, the past always is present, and the deeper you go into a given period, the more alive it becomes for you. It’s all in the details: the texture of the weave in a fabric, the temperature of a room, the light, the writing implements, the kitchen, the cuisine. It’s the social history, the kind of thing that puts you within the context of the characters and their historical framework. The filmmakers’ job is to take their own excitement and work from it, bring it to the screen. Which Jean-Marc and Julien have done with The Young Victoria. They’re both enormously talented in extremely different ways, and I think they made a great creative team. And the actors – Emily Blunt, Miranda Richardson, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Jim Broadbent, with whom I had such a good working experience on Gangs of New York…they all did a tremendous job.

What’s your view on feature films and historical accuracy? How much poetic license should filmmakers allow themselves? Is there a line which shouldn’t be crossed?
In the days of the studio system, a lot of lines were crossed historically, particularly when it came to American history. For instance, I like They Died with Their Boots On as a Raoul Walsh/Erroll Flynn picture, but as a biography of General Custer it’s a complete fantasy. In the 70s, you started to see a kind of corrective to this way of falsifying history. You could say that up to about 1960, filmmakers felt an obligation to “print the legend,” as one of the characters says at the end of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance by John Ford. And then, it went the other way. For my generation, it was necessary to go the other way, to expose what was behind the curtain of public record. There was more harshness, greater accuracy, greater scrutiny of the historical record. Now, I think some of the excitement of the older, more fanciful films has come back, but the respect for history has also increased. So, I’m not sure if there’s a line that can’t be crossed. I just think that you have to have a sense of history as your starting ground.

Do you like multi tasking – ie you’re filming a contemporary crime thriller and discussing a period love story at the same time.
Do I like multi-tasking? I’m not sure, but I find myself doing it. Frequently.

You’re interests are clearly wide ranging – the Harrison documentary following on your work with the Stones to Shutter Island to producing a film about an 18 year old Queen of England. Is there a genre of film that you feel you haven’t tackled yet and would like to?
It would be interesting to do a western. A war film. If it was the right material.

Has your approach to the work changed over the years, do you think? In Berlin last year you said that the anger you felt as a younger man was still there but it was channelled more now. Could you expand on that?
I think it’s happened for me in the way it happens for many people. I’m not as prone to outbursts as I was when I was younger. Or, I can have more of a sense of humor about it now. I can see things from a different angle. What’s changed? Having a young child has certainly shifted my perspective.

What makes your professional relationship with Graham King work so well?

Graham and I can speak frankly to each other. Frankly, but respectfully. That’s valuable to me. He understands the way I work.

You’ve long been an admirer of British cinema. Would you ever make a film here in the UK?
British cinema has always meant a lot to me. We’ve been working over the years on a film about it, and I find that I’m constantly viewing and re-viewing British films, and discovering new ones – the Powell-Pressburger pictures, but other movies too, like Green for Danger, or that remarkable silent Asquith movie A Cottage on Dartmoor, which I saw for the first time a couple of years ago, or Thorold Dickinson’s movies. Watching British films as I grew up has been a great influence on me. It’s extremely rich, varied, and unusual. If I had the right story to tell, of course I’d shoot a picture in England.

There is an Official Fan Page for “The Young Victoria” on Facebook.