The Other Boleyn Girl About the Shooting
The Other Boleyn Girl was shot in high definition. Says Justin Chadwick, "We shot `Bleak House' on HD and really appreciated the different quality it gave to the final look of the film, so I was pleased that Sony was interested in us working on HD again. 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. The film will have its own unique look."
"Shooting in HD gave us a lot of options," says Kristin Scott Thomas. "We could do a lot of takes. Justin was a very generous, very sensitive director, and he gave us the opportunity to make a very passionate film."
Chadwick was determined to shoot as much as possible of The Other Boleyn Girl 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. "We did visit lots of the real locations, such as Hever Castle where the Boleyn family lived for a time, but most of those places are now part of the tourist heritage industry and have been cleaned up for visitors. They just don't have the atmosphere they would have had during Henry's reign."
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. "At first, I went on the road with Justin and Kieran McGuigan, the director of photography. We drove around possible locations and talked about how the film might look. Justin wanted the look to be relevant, modern, and alive. The Tudor period was incredibly energetic, a time of massive change in the world, and Henry's court was the beginning of the modern Britain we live in now. We wanted to keep the backgrounds alive and vibrant and interesting. Our starting point was to balance period accuracy with creating a modern and exciting story."
To create this unique mood, Kelly searched through old photographs from around the world for inspiration. He found ideas for his representation of the Tudor court in such diverse pictures as street scenes from India and nightclubs from Berlin. Kelly says that while it was important to the filmmakers not to have anachronistic elements in the film, at the same time, they looked for the film to "give you the essence of the period without bogging you down in details. I wanted to reflect the flavor and the excitement of the images that excited us."
Two of the critical settings in the film are the Boleyn family home and Whitehall Palace, the home of Henry's court. To shoot the Whitehall ball sequence, Kelly and his team built large areas of Whitehall Palace across two stages in the George Lucas Building at London's Elstree Studios. The scene is key, according to Kelly, because this is when "the Boleyn sisters experience the full exhilaration of Henry's court for the first time. And of course they both react in different ways; Anne totally buys into that world, and Mary would rather not be there."
Kelly's set highlights the moment. "We wanted a massively long corridor, which gives the scale of the Palace. We wanted the ball to feel more like a party, where you can ramble between rooms, with action in various corners, rather than look like one of those big set piece balls you often see on film. It looks nothing like a Berlin nightclub, but hopefully has that sense of excitement."
Kelly's favorite set was Henry's bedroom, also built on stage. He says, "I thought it would be interesting for Henry to bring Mary into a forest-walled room, so I decided to paint a mural all the way around, using colors which might have been used on a tapestry. Also, because there is very little furniture remaining from the period, we designed and made much of it. It was a fantastic moment of excess for me, to design and make a bed for King Henry VIII."
Whitehall Palace was burned down and then rebuilt, so there was little reference available for the original 1530s palace. "In reality, the palace probably had lots of long dull corridors, with bits of brown furniture. The challenge on a period film is to find a kind of reality that is true to history, but allows you to tell your story in the way you want to," says Kelly.
Both Kelly and costume designer Sandy Powell relied on the color palette used by portrait painter Hans Holbein. "When Holbein painted Henry's court, he worked in a completely different way from his contemporaries," Kelly says. "His palette was very particular, including a lot of turquoises, strong blues, and deep greens. We've based our color schemes on that palette and coordinated with each other, so that the furnishings and the clothes are complimentary. They tell the same story."
About the Costume Design
For Costume Designer Sandy Powell, who has been nominated for a total of seven Academy Awards®, winning Oscars® for her work on Shakespeare in Love and The Aviator, the chance to work on The Other Boleyn Girl represented a great challenge: Powell and her team were responsible for designing and making hundreds of original costumes true to the Tudor era.
Like her colleague, production designer John-Paul Kelly, Powell turned to the paintings of Hans Holbein for inspiration for the costumes of Henry and the Boleyns. "He was the only artist of the time painting the Court of King Henry, and in such detail. The accepted image of Henry today is from Holbein's painting that hangs in the National Gallery, with the king standing hands on hips, his legs astride. Of course, in our film, we are depicting Henry at a younger age, so we have our own Henry."
According to Powell, capturing the authentic look of the period while maintaining high levels of creativity and originality is a balancing act for any designer working in a specific period. "You always have to use artistic license; you can never be strictly authentic, and besides, no one knows what authentic is, anyway," she says. "We don't have complete information about the clothes, and we don't have the same fabrics. I do my research and then do my own version. I do what is right for the character, or the actor, or the scene, or the film as a whole. We have a story to tell."
One of the keys to the film is differentiating between Mary and Anne Boleyn. Powell explains, "There is not a great deal of variety in the shape or silhouette of a Tudor dress, and the girls shared the same life and moved mainly in the same circles, at home or at Court, so I used a difference in tone and shade to separate them. Mary's character is slightly softer and more romantic than Anne, who is seen as stronger and more forceful. So, without being as obvious as one girl in red and one in blue, I've dressed them in different hues."
Powell also used the costumes to subtly reflect the politics of the time. "For example, with the girls' father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, I've made each outfit a little bit grander than the last one, and finally a little bit vulgar towards the end. His power at Court is increasing, and with it, his wealth. Like a nouveau riche person today, he's got money and he wants to show it."
The designer does have one favorite costume: "Natalie wears the Lily Dress while riding a horse," she says. "It's bright green, with embroidered lilies up the front."
"Costumes are always very helpful," says Johansson, noting that it's especially true in a period piece. "The way you hold yourself, how grand you feel when you wear it. For Mary, her character changes as her costumes change. In the country, she has simple cotton dresses that are easier to work with. Later in the film, she becomes very motherly -- a child on her hip -- and in the huge court dresses, it's impossible. You feel the change of character."
About the Locations
The house and grounds of Great Chalfield Manor, near Bath, was used by production as the country home of the Boleyns. The manor served as the location for two key scenes: Mary's wedding to William Carey and the king's visit to go hunting with Anne and George. The manor house and the tiny parish Church of All Saints within the grounds were rebuilt in the 15th century and the house has been continuously occupied since then, for the past 130 years by one family. The Fuller family restored the property in 1905 and donated the house and the grounds to the National Trust in 1943. The manor is a splendidly preserved example of the architecture of its time -- an amalgamation of medieval features, including a gabled entrance porch, oriel windows, and a central Great Hall, with the "modern" (16th Century!) addition of a parlor.
Nearby, the production used Lacock Abbey as the gardens, cloisters and rooms of Whitehall Palace, where Queen Katherine first confronts the Boleyn sisters and Anne plays with young Henry to remind the king of his desire for a son and heir. Lacock Abbey was founded in the 13th century by the Countess of Salisbury; at any time, it would house 15 to 25 nuns. The local village poor benefited from the Abbey, as the nuns distributed food and money to the needy. Most of the villagers who farmed the land were tenants of the Abbey, and paid their rents in grain, hides, and fleeces. Following King Henry's split from the Church, Lacock Abbey, like many other religious houses, was sold to a wealthy landowner; it has remained in the same family since the 16th Century.
Saint Bartholomew's Church in the Smithfield area of London was the scene of both the trial of Queen Katherine and the grim wedding of pregnant Anne Boleyn and King Henry. Adjacent to Saint Bartholomew's Hospital and Smithfield Market in an area increasingly popular for its bars and restaurants, Saint Bartholomew's is an active Anglican/Episcopalian Church, built in 1123 when Henry I, son of William the Conqueror, was king of England. It survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the bombs dropped during both World Wars.
The executions of Anne and George Boleyn, which took place within the Tower of London, were filmed in Dover Castle. Built high on the cliffs of the southeast coast of England, overlooking the shortest sea crossing between France and England, there has been a fortress in this strategic location since Roman Times. King Henry VIII appreciated the strength of this bastion when a Catholic invasion of England seemed inevitable, following the annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and the dissolution of a peace treaty between Spain and France. Henry ordered the strengthening of the country's defenses, commissioning a chain of coastal artillery forts. He visited Dover Castle to check on the progress of the work in 1539.
Knole House, a stately home in Kent in southeastern England, is known as a calendar house because of its 365 rooms. The house was owned by Henry VIII after he took it from the Archbishop of Canterbury; he used it as a hunting lodge. Henry's daughter, Queen Elizabeth, gave the house and the 1000 acres of deer park surrounding it to her cousin Thomas Sackville, whose descendents, the Dukes and Earls of Dorset and the Barons of Sackville, have lived there ever since. Portrayed in the film as the exterior of Whitehall Palace, the house rooftops are also featured as the spires of London by night, as Mary Boleyn flees from court to return to William Stafford in the country.
Mary's journey on horseback takes her through the Derbyshire Peak District, showing the spectacular countryside around Dovedale and beneath Stannage Edge. As she arrives at the home she shares with William Stafford and her children, we see the exterior of North Lees Hall, which is reputed to have inspired Charlotte Brontë's description of Thornfield Hall, the home of Mr. Rochester in her novel Jane Eyre.
Rooms within Haddon Hall, also in the Peak District, were used as other interiors of the Boleyn home. Haddon Hall is one of England's finest medieval and Tudor houses, having been described as "the most perfect house to survive from the Middle Ages." It has belonged to the Manners family since 1567 and, after lying empty for 200 years, was restored by the Duke and Duchess of Rutland in the 1920s.
Penshurst Place, also in Kent, features in the film as the gardens and the grand dining hall of Whitehall Palace. The manor house is the most complete example of 14th Century domestic architecture that survives today. Henry's son, Edward VI, granted the estate to Sir William Sidney in 1552, and the family has been in occupation ever since. The previous owners were the Dukes of Buckingham, one of whom entertained Henry VIII in the Baron's Hall in 1519. Two years later, his royal hospitality forgotten, the Duke was beheaded for treason. In fact, three successive Dukes of Buckingham lost their heads during the Tudor monarchies.
About King Henry VIII
Henry Tudor was born in 1491, the second son of King Henry VII of England. His older brother Arthur died, leaving Henry to inherit his father's throne. He first married Katherine of Aragon, his brother's widow, a match only permitted under Roman Catholic law of the time because of the claim that Katherine and Arthur's marriage had never been consummated. With Katherine, Henry had one daughter, Mary. Henry divorced Katherine after falling in love with Anne Boleyn. His need for a male heir played a large part in his desire to marry the pregnant Anne, but Anne gave Henry another daughter, Elizabeth. The marriage lasted only three years before Anne was beheaded for infidelity, a treasonous charge in the king's consort. Henry hastily married Jane Seymour, who died in childbirth, giving Henry the son and heir he longed for, Prince Edward.
Henry next arranged a marriage with Anne of Cleves, reportedly attracted to her after seeing Hans Holbein's beautiful portrait of her. But in person, he found her plain, and the marriage was never consummated. Catherine Howard, another niece of the scheming Duke of Norfolk, was Henry's next wife but she was executed for infidelity within two years. His sixth and final wife was Catherine Parr, who outlived him. Henry died in 1547, at the age of 56.
Henry was succeeded first by his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, whose reign lasted for six years. When he died, he was succeeded by Lady Jane Grey, who was not in line for the throne and was forced to give up the crown after just nine days when Katherine of Aragon's daughter, Mary, rode triumphantly into London. Mary became known as Bloody Mary because of her intolerant attitude to non-Catholics. Upon Mary's death, Anne Boleyn's daughter, Elizabeth, was crowned Queen of England; she began a long and celebrated reign that came to be called a golden age.
As a young and vigorous king, Henry invaded France, defeated the Scots at Flodden Field and wrote a treatise against the reformation of the Church, for which the Pope rewarded him with the title "Defender of the Faith." However, his obsession with having a male heir to inherit the throne of England led to his divorce from Katherine, which was condemned by the Pope, who had refused to annul the union. Henry broke from Rome, separating the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church, and asserting the supremacy of the Monarchy, an event that greatly altered the politics of England and the whole of Western Christendom, fracturing the absolute power of the Church of Rome.
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