LOS ANGELES TIMES – From the moment she became queen of Scotland at 6 days old, the world never stopped scrutinizing Mary Stuart’s every move — or pitting her against Elizabeth I of England, the cousin whose throne she held a claim to by birth.
Executed at the age of 44, implicated in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth that historians debate to this day, it was her enemies who would write Mary’s legacy. So in the turbulent years of her controversial life, contemporaries wonder, who was the real woman known as Mary, Queen of Scots, and what led to her tragic undoing?
Put another way in director Josie Rourke’s forceful new biopic, “Mary Queen of Scots”: What if Mary and Elizabeth could’ve just sat down together and worked things out?
It’s a notion that occurred to Rourke, star Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”), who plays the titular Scottish queen, and Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”), who plays Mary’s cousin and political frenemy Queen Elizabeth I.
“You don’t know how many times I thought, ‘If they just called out for coffee at the beginning of this movie … it would have been so different!’” said Robbie with a laugh, reuniting in Los Angeles with Rourke and Ronan for the first time since filming the period drama.
Cheekily, Ronan agreed. “Let’s just go to Starbucks,” she added, channeling Mary, Queen of Scots, by way of a flawless Valley girl accent. “Have a blueberry muffin, sort this … out …”
Filmed on location 430 years after Mary’s grisly execution, “Mary Queen of Scots” brings the monarch’s story to life with a distinctly feminist aim, focusing on the defining years of the charismatic young Catholic queen with a fierce Ronan in the lead role.
Backed by the producers of the Oscar-winning “Elizabeth” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” which starred Cate Blanchett, and scripted by “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon, the Working Title and Focus Features film is part political thriller, part chamber drama. It marks the film directing debut of theater veteran Rourke, who also serves as the artistic director of London’s Donmar Warehouse theater.
In its humanistic portrait of the two women, the film suggests that the headstrong Mary and the fearful Elizabeth might have bolstered each other and even found solace in their shared challenges had politics, religion and male advisors on both sides not kept them at odds.