Cinematographer John Mathieson had to “hit the ground running” with “Mary Queen of Scots.” After taking over at the last minute for Seamus McGarvey, Mathieson had to conceive of how to shoot a historical epic on a modest $25 million budget. Watch our exclusive video interview with Mathieson above.
Directed by Josie Rourke, this Focus Features release centers on the rivalry between Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) of Scotland and Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) of England. Though $25 million is certainly nothing to scoff at when it comes to making a movie, it gets stretched pretty thin “when you have to have two countries going to war against each other,” Mathieson says.
No stranger to gigantic productions, Mathieson knew he would have to “address things as they came along.” He explains, “You go to your producers and director and say, we need to go big this day. We need more people, we need more cranes, we need to put more extras in. And then we can go back to being really small again.” It’s all about managing your resources: “You don’t need everything all the time. You try and play your big cards on the big days, and you scale back when you need to.”
Mathieson received an Oscar bid for Ridley Scott‘s Best Picture-winning “Gladiator” (2000), for which he won BAFTA and Critics’ Choice prizes and contended at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards. Then he competed at the Oscars again for Joel Schumacher‘s lavish musical “The Phantom of the Opera” (2004). He has also worked on large-scale films including “Hannibal” (2001), “Kingdom of Heaven” (2005), “X-Men: First Class” (2011) and “Logan” (2017).
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