Saoirse Ronan Interview: ‘Mary Queen of Scots’

Like many films, it took a long time for “Mary Queen of Scots” to get to the big screen. The project had been in development for years before Saoirse Ronan signed on in 2012 to play the titular monarch, and it would be another five years before production began.

“It’s amazing. It’s really exciting,” Ronan tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview (watch above) of finally getting the film made. “It’s something I’ve been attached to for a long, long time. I think just finally seeing it all put together and see everyone in it come out so well, like all the cast is so great and we’ve all become really close. So it’s just been a wonderful thing to share it with them as well because we had such a lovely experience.”

But the long wait was a blessing in disguise. After seeing “so many drafts” come through as various writers and directors came and went, Ronan believes she was able to grow into the role over the years as the focus of the film also shifted. The three-time Oscar nominee (“Atonement,” 2007; “Brooklyn,” 2015; “Lady Bird,” 2017) was 23 when she shot the film last year.

“I think when I was 18, they were essentially looking at Mary around that time. She was still in France, she had gotten married around 16, and then when she was 19, her first husband — the king of France — and her mother back in Scotland died,” she says. “So there was an awful that happened at that point in her life, and as I got older, you could make it more about her marriage prospects and how she used that as a way to gain power and just how she came into her womanhood really. That’s quite a big part of it as well and that was something we could only do at the age I was at now.”

Helmed by theater director Josie Rourke in her feature film debut and written by Beau Willimon (“House of Cards”), “Mary Queen of Scots” is a half-political thriller, half-character piece that examines the complicated relationship between Mary Stuart and her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie), whose English throne Mary had a claim to by birth. One of everyone’s main objectives on the film was to humanize both women and remedy the “loads of misconceptions” about Mary, including that she plotted to kill Elizabeth, which led to her beheading in 1587.

“That was the ultimate fake news, where Cecil (Guy Pearce) took letters she had written to different confidants and basically kind of re-edited them to make it look like she was plotting to kill Elizabeth,” Ronan says. “So her execution was something that came out of a lie.”

It was Cecil, Elizabeth’s advisor, and other men in the queens’ orbits who conspired to keep them apart and at odds. The great “what if?” is: What if the women had been able to meet and hash things out? Would they have been friends? Or at least been able to work together?

The film sort of answers that. While Mary and Elizabeth never met in real life, the movie features a climactic scene of them covertly meeting in a cottage. To make the highly anticipated scene even more emotionally charged, Ronan and Robbie were kept apart on set so their meet-cute would occur on film. The scene was shot on Robbie’s last day and Ronan’s first — and yes, there was a close call.

“They were shooting in a cathedral and I was coming in for like one tiny scene that I had to do before we properly started all of our stuff, and she was walking down the corridor as I was going into the cathedral, and we were both like, ‘Ahh!’” Ronan recalls. “And I just sort of blocked my eyes and was like, ‘Don’t look! Don’t look!’ And she ran past me. But they were really good. All the ADs kept us apart and everyone was kind of into it.”

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UPLOADED Dec 19, 2018 11:13 am