Tony McNamara (‘The Favourite’ writer) on ‘putting men on the sidelines’ for this modern take on royal women [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

With “The Favourite,” Tony McNamara wanted to “re-engineer the period movie.” The Australian-born writer was hired by director Yorgos Lanthimos to do a rewrite on Deborah Davis‘s original script about the rivalry between two cousins (Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) for the affections of a frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) during the 18th century. Watch our exclusive video interview with McNamara above.

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Hailing from the land down under, McNamara didn’t have “a strong tradition” of period films about English royalty to draw upon, which made him a perfect match for the Greek-born Lanthimos. “We just wanted it to be about people in a really contemporary way,” he explains, “not in the sense we were looking back at something.” Instead, they wanted “these three women and the dilemmas they got up with every day to be very fresh, as fresh as they were when we get up with our dilemmas,” though of course “their dilemmas are different because they’re royal.”

Above all else, McNamara wanted to focus on the “complicated humanity” of the three women. “We really were always about who the women were … We were putting the political story in the background, and the men on the sidelines.”

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Taking a modern view of history also freed McNamara from the bondage of historical accuracy in the language. “I don’t know how people talked back then,” he admits. “So I wasn’t worried about that too much.” He knew he was writing “a hybrid of language that was sort of contemporary, but also sort of period, and that seemed to make sense” with Lanthimos’ unique “sensibility.”

McNamara and Davis have earned Gotham and British Independent Film Award nominations for “The Favourite.” He has also won Australian Writers Guild Awards for the film “The Rage in Placid Lake” (2003) and the TV series “Love My Way.”

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