History Scotland's exclusive interview with Mary Queen of Scots director Josie Rourke


07 December 2018
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Josie Rourke, director of Mary Queen of Scots, talks to History Scotland about the challenges of portraying Mary’s reign on screen.

Josie Rourke, director of Mary Queen of Scots, talks to History Scotland about the challenges of portraying Mary’s reign on screen.

History Scotland's new Mary Queen of Scots souvenir magazine contains exclusive interviews with Josie Rourke, Dr John Guy (whose books the movie is based upon) and actress Eileen O'Higgins, who plays Mary Beaton.

Here, Josie talks to us about the challenges in portraying Mary's on-screen journey from beautiful young queen to middle-aged prisoner of Elizabeth I of England: 'The film follows the years of Mary’s life from her return to Scotland up to the battle of Langside. There is then an imagined scene, based on the two queens' correspondence, in which Mary meets her cousin secretly to ask Elizabeth for help.

'This imagined scene is the heart of the film. Mary Queen of Scots begins with Mary’s execution, and flashes back in time to tell its story. We see this scene twice, at the beginning and end of the film. At the beginning of the film, we see the backs of Elizabeth and Mary. At the end of the film, we see their faces, and hear Elizabeth speaking in her mind, writing a letter she cannot send, to her cousin. In that imagined letter, she tells us that "in her mind’s eye" she will always see Mary as the young woman, whose portrait she first looked upon over twenty years ago.

'So, by this device, we see Elizabeth age into her power, and Mary remains the young woman we’ve followed through the film. Beau Willimon [who
wrote the screenplay] and I looked for ways to reflect how these two women were immortalised by their choices and their fates.'

Read more of the interview, including the reasons behind Josie's decision to portray a real-life meeting between the two queens, in History Scotland's 'Mary Queen of Scots' magazine.

(image copyright Focus Features, all rights reserved)

QUICK LINK: Actress Eileen O'Higgins on filming her favourite scene from the movie

Mary Queen of Scots magazine