Filed under: Tudor Movies
It’s a bodice ripping catfight between Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman as they compete for the affections of Eric Bana’sHenry VIII in an adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s hugely popular novel The Other Boleyn GirlThe Boleyn girl who won the king’s heart was Anne, played by Natalie Portman. She went on to bare him a future queen in Elizabeth I before he lopped off her head for not giving him a son. What many might not know is that he fell for her sweet natured younger sister Mary, Scarlett Johansson, before scheming Anne stuck her claws into him.These are the facts according to director Justin Chadwick (Bleak House), scriptwriter Peter (The Queen) Morgan and Philippa Gregory of course. How much historical truth there is in this version is for the likes of David Starkey, not this mere reviewer.
The facts I can be certain of are it’s a film as sumptuous to look at as we have come to expect from such period dramas and as melodramatic as recent BBC TV series The Tudors, without as much bonking. Shame.
Johansson’s Mary is the innocent who’s pimped out to the king by the patriarchs of her family – her father Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) and her uncle The Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) – in order to better their social standing. When she falls out of favour, Anne is enlisted to fill the hole in his bed.
Where Mary was reluctant to be his mistress Anne has her eye on the throne and schemes her way into his affections until she gets it. Lady Elizabeth (Kristin Scott Thomas) as the girls’ mother washes her hands of the whole affair.
Henry VIII has such a reputation for womanising it’s easy to forget that he ruled for 62 years and separated England from the Catholic Church.
But he only did that so he could divorce his first wife Catharine of Aragon and marry Anne. Eric Bana as Henry does an admirable job of playing a king controlled by his cock and Portman plays him, and it, like a fiddle. There really must be more to this skirt-chasing six-pack than Chadwick and Morgan would have us believe.
Enjoyable as it is The Other Boleyn Girl is over run with stock characters. Bana is a stock hunk, Portman a stock bitch and Johansson a stock angel. There has to be more to a story where everybody already knows the ending.
The Other Boleyn Girl opens in the UK on 7 March 2008
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Based on Philippa Gregory’s novel, the new film offers the idea that Henry, while still married to Queen Catherine of Aragon, took Mary Boleyn as his mistress and that she bore him an illegitimate child. Later, Mary was replaced in Henry’s affections by her own sister, Anne, who succeeded in getting the king to finally end his marriage to Catherine and marry Anne.
Gregory’s novel, published in 2002, was an instant best-seller and put the spotlight on Mary Boleyn for the first time.
Here are some movies and TV miniseries about the Boleyns and King Henry VIII:
“The Private Life of Henry VIII” (1933): Charles Laughton won the best actor Academy Award for his somewhat over-the-top portrayal of an expansive, pouty and emotional Henry in this big-budget British film directed by Alexander Korda. Merle Oberon’s Anne Boleyn receives less time onscreen than some of Henry’s other wives — the film actually begins with her execution — particularly Anne of Cleves (played by Elsa Lanchester, Laughton’s spouse in real life). Available on DVD from Allied Artists Classics.
“A Man for All Seasons” (1966): Although she’s onscreen for only a few seconds and has no dialogue, Vanessa Redgrave is so gorgeous, so stunningly vivacious as Anne Boleyn, that we see why Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) was so taken by her. Redgrave gives one of the great cameo performances in movie history in this drama about Henry’s nemesis, Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield). The film’s six Oscars include best picture, best actor (Scofield) and best director. Available on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
“Anne of the Thousand Days” (1969): This big, lavish production received 10 Oscar nominations — including ones for best picture and for stars Genevieve Bujold as Anne and Richard Burton as Henry — but won only for costume design. Director Charles Jarrott’s film is quite accurate in its period detail yet way off the mark in depicting the relationship between Anne and Henry. Still, it’s the only major film among the Henry VIII movies to focus largely on Anne. Available on DVD, packaged with “Mary, Queen of Scots,” from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
“The Other Boleyn Girl” (2003): This 2003 BBC version of Gregory’s novel, which was released this week on DVD, stars Natascha McElhone as Mary Boleyn, Jodhi May as Anne and Jared Harris as Henry VIII. Director Philippa Lowthorpe had her cast improvise much of the dialogue. Available Tuesday on DVD from BBC Video.
“Henry VIII” (2003): A Granada TV/PBS “Masterpiece Theatre” production, this stars Ray Winstone as Henry and Helena Bonham Carter as Anne. Bonham Carter garnered excellent reviews as Anne (better than Winstone received for his Cockney-accented king), and her character comes across very favorably — scheming, to be sure, but also intelligent, warm and exceedingly noble at her execution. Available on DVD from HBO Video.
“The Tudors: The Complete First Season” (2007): Relative newcomer Natalie Dormer stars as Anne in this Showtime TV series, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing Henry. Dormer gives a strong performance, emphasizing Anne’s conniving and independent spirit, but this is Rhys Meyers’ show. Season 2 begins March 30 with Henry’s marriage to Anne. Available on DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment.
Filed under: Tudor Movies
By Maxine Shen
March 5, 2008 —
SURE, there was that whole Revolution thing against the British king. But today, Americans seem to be smitten with royalty – especially when it comes to the Tudor dynasty.
You know: Henry VIII, his six wives, beheadings, England’s divorce from the Catholic Church, “Bloody” Mary, the Virgin Queen . . . Ring a bell?
We’re currently experiencing serious Tudor Mania thanks to this month’s return of the popular Showtime series “The Tudors,” plenty of historical fiction, and the big-screen adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s best-selling novel “The Other Boleyn Girl” – No. 4 at last weekend’s box office.
There’s even a Tudor reference in ABC’s “Ugly Betty” – Betty’s “B” necklace is the same as the one worn by Anne Boleyn.
“It’s really like a soap opera, it has everything: love, hate, drama, intrigue, murder,” says Tudor fan Kate Klenfner, a Jersey City resident. “Henry VIII was basically a murderer who had no training to become king – his brother was supposed to become king, but he died – and completely indulged himself in every way that he could.”
Henry VIII’s notoriously bloody behavior is precisely what appeals to people, says Suzannah Dunn, author of “The Sixth Wife,” about Katherine Parr, the wife who managed to outlive Henry.
“He managed to have six wives, have two of them killed and set the rest of them aside,” she says. “You might think that that sort of thing went on in those days, but it didn’t – it was just as shocking then as it is now.”
Still, the Tudors did set many archetypes that we’re currently familiar with, says Dunn. The triangle between Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon – Henry’s first wife, who couldn’t give him a son – might remind you of another celebrity triangle. Aniston-Pitt-Jolie, perhaps?
Like their modern-day counterparts, the Tudors and their associates from the era (1485 to 1603) were just as tabloid-worthy back in the day as Paris and Lindsay are today.
“Before the Tudors, people didn’t really keep records,” Dunn says. “Suddenly, you could easily read accounts of Anne Boleyn’s fights with Henry because all these diplomats scurried off and wrote about them in shocked letters to their people back home.”
“There is definitely an element of Tudor history that you could almost see being plastered on tabloids today,” adds Lara Eakins, who runs Tudorhistory.org.
“I guess the sex lives of celebrities, be they movie stars or long-dead royalty, has a universal appeal.”
BELIEVE it or not, casting directors aren’t taking huge liberties by tapping hunky actors such as Jonathan Rhys Meyers (“The Tudors”) and Eric Bana (“The Other Boleyn Girl”) to play the part of Henry VIII.
“Most people don’t know that Henry was a dynamic, handsome, athletic, fantasy-type person for a lot of his life,” says Diane Haeger, author of the upcoming novel “The Secret Bride,” about Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Tudor. “He was wild and adventurous, always out riding, shooting bows or falcon hunting. He didn’t become the gluttonish, awful old guy with a bunch of wives until the end.”