Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn
Directed by Justin Chadwick
Written by Philippa Gregory (novel), Peter Morgan (screenplay)
Release Date February 29, 2008
MPAA Rating PG-13
Based on the best selling novel by Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl is an engrossing and sensual tale of intrigue, romance, and betrayal set against the backdrop of a defining moment in history. Two sisters, Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlett Johansson) Boleyn, are driven by their ambitious father and uncle to advance the family’s power and status by courting the affections of the King of England (Eric Bana). Leaving behind the simplicity of country life, the girls are thrust into the dangerous and thrilling world of court life — and what began as a bid to help their family develops into a ruthless rivalry between Anne and Mary for the love of the king. Initially, Mary wins King Henry’s favor and becomes his mistress, bearing him an illegitimate child. But Anne, clever, conniving, and fearless, edges aside both her sister and Henry’s wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon, in her relentless pursuit of the king. Despite Mary’s genuine feelings for Henry, her sister Anne has her sights set on the ultimate prize; Anne will not stop until she is Queen of England. As the Boleyn girls battle for the love of a king – one driven by ambition, the other by true affection – England is torn apart. Despite the dramatic consequences, the Boleyn girls ultimately find strength and loyalty in each other, and they remain forever connected by their bond as sisters.
Scarlett Johansson’s Role
Scarlett Johansson portrays Mary Boleyn (c. 1499 – July 19, 1543). She was a member of the famous aristocratic Boleyn family, which enjoyed considerable influence during the early part of the 16th century. Very few facts is actually known about her. For example, most historians believe she was the elder sister of Queen Anne Boleyn while others agree Anne to be the elder. In the film, however, she is the younger of the two Boleyn girls. “I think before I wrote the novel, hardly anyone knew about Mary Boleyn,” Philippa Gregory says. “She was a character hidden from history, maybe because historians weren’t interested in her, because she made no difference to the historical record. But I saw her story as a contrast between sisters, and that contrast was fertile ground. It becomes a parable for the way women make use of their opportunities.”
In the beginning of the film the young Mary marries William Carey, whom she deeply cares for. They dream of a life in the country but Mary’s life is turned upside down when the King Henry VIII takes an interest in her and appoints her as a lady-in-waiting to his wife, Queen Catherine. Mary yields to her family’s pressure and reluctantly moves to the court and becomes the king’s mistress. She is assisted in this process by her two siblings – the quick-witted George and the scheming Anne, who is bitter about Henry choosing Mary over her. To her father’s delight, Mary becomes pregnant with the king’s child. However, while she is pregnant, Anne sets out to seduce the king and steal him away from her sister. In the process both the king and Anne break the heart of Mary, who has by now fallen in love with him.
The reviews for The Other Boleyn Girl have been very mixed so I walked in to the cinema with very little expectations. I am happy to say that I found the movie very entertaining. I don’t think it deserved as much critique as some bestowed upon it. Scarlett did a wonderful job as Mary Boleyn and I felt this was a more substantial and multilayered role than some of her recent ones, such as The Black Dahlia and The Nanny Diaries. Scarlett tackles an English accent, many challenging scenes and shows her versatility. She has a wonderful chemistry with Natalie Portman and their bond as sisters is believable. I felt Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn is the heart of the film, its emotional center.
… Natalie Portman
… Eric Bana
… Kristin Scott Thomas
… Jim Sturgess
Trivia & Facts
• Natalie Portman (Anne) and Scarlett Johansson (Mary) say that their costumes were the biggest contribution to them knowing their character. Their dresses gave them good posture and the colors helped represent their personality. With Anne, her bold and simple colors show that she wants a main goal. Mary’s softer and much more complicated dress design shows that she is a more modest person and tries to be herself.
• The shooting began late September 2006 in England and wrapped up in December.
• Some key-scenes were re-filmed for three days in August 2007.
• Was shot in high definition. “The huge advantage is that nothing is hidden – you can see every detail. In a close-up you feel you can reach in and touch the actor; you can see into the actor’s eyes. It’s not the obvious thing for a period movie, but I wanted to capture performances, not do wide shots of the beautiful locations we were using,” says Justin Chadwick.
• Chadwick was determined to shoot as much as possible on location. “If the characters are at home in their real surroundings, it adds to the performances,” he explains. In the end, the majority of the film’s exterior shots were filmed in real castles and estates throughout England, but for some interior shots, the realistically weathered look that Chadwick envisioned required building sets in the studio.
• For John-Paul Kelly, the production designer, the initial approach to determining the design of the film was to do research on the Tudor period and to visit potential locations. To create this unique mood, Kelly searched through old photographs from around the world for inspiration.
Quotes: Scarlett Johansson
• “Right now I am in The Other Boleyn Girl. It’s based on a book by Philippa Gregory, about Anne and Mary Boleyn and their relationship to King Henry VIII. They both had affairs with him, which is quite bizarre when you think of it because it was a very modern thing to do. I’m being directed by Justin Chadwick. He did the whole Bleak House series for the BBC. It’s a great role. I’m playing Mary, and Natalie Portman is playing Anne. You never know how things are going to turn out, but I feel confident about it. I loved the Bleak House series. I’m very exited about it.”
• Johansson was lured by the chance to work with Portman, in a project where both could shine. “It’s very clear that the meaning of the ‘other’ Boleyn girl changes over time.”
• “I first became involved because Natalie was doing it. She’s a wonderful actor, just a great scene partner. I guess I had never really worked with a young woman my age. She’s so professional. And she’s not pretentious or anything, just a really nice girl. It also helped that she’s from New York.”
• “Sibling relationships are complicated. Everyone can understand that jealousy and competition. The bond is very strong; only your siblings can read you so well and know instinctively how you feel.”
• “It’s interesting to read about life at the Tudor court. As the rest of the world was suffering, fighting religious wars and wars for land, the royal court was its own little world.”
• “Not much is known about Mary’s life. You can read different versions of how the affair with Henry came about and nothing is known about her personality. There were no articles written about her, no public interest in her. She was just another of the king’s mistresses. So the best research material I had was Philippa Gregory’s imagining of this person, and that was incredibly helpful to me.”
• “The Boleyn girls are written as two halves of the same person. I think that is always true of sisters of a similar age, even if they don’t always want to admit it. What Mary admires and is repulsed by in Anne are traits that she wishes she had herself. Similarly, Anne comes to realize at the end of the story that she wishes she had some of Mary’s traits.”
• “This can be such a competitive business, and it is rare to have two such strong roles for women in one film,. Natalie is kind and generous, personally and in her performance. She is inspiring to work with.”
Quotes: Her Character
• “No one could wish for a better sister.”
• “Why did you come Anne, if all you desire is to torment me?”
• “Why? Why this cruelty? You know I love him.”
• “You’ve reached too high… as always.”
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