THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL
About The Cast
Oscar® nominee Natalie Portman says she first approached the role of Anne Boleyn with research. Relying not only on the character as written in the novel but also on historical sources, she found that Anne was a woman both of her time and ahead of it. "Anne had a sense of self-respect that was uncommon for a woman of her time. She thought she deserved a status she was not born with, and this ultimately led to her demise," she says. "Marriage then was not about love; it was about uniting families to increase their power. Anne accepts this, but the unexpected thing is that Henry is charming, handsome and educated. She finds him an intellectual companion, and her way of attracting his attention is to challenge him."
As an only child, Natalie relied on her co-star for insight into sibling relationships. "Scarlett is one of four children. I felt like I had a co-conspirator - she's a wonderful actor and a very playful person. Peter Morgan agreed that in every scene there were 20 things going on between the girls - loving, fighting, feeling guilty, rivalry, but above all closeness."
Johansson also researched the period before playing the role. "It's interesting to read about life at the Tudor court," she says. "As the rest of the world was suffering, fighting religious wars and wars for land, the royal court was its own little world."
Still, Johansson's main research tool for background on her character was the novel. "Not much is known about Mary's life," she explains. "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," Johansson says. "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."
Johansson was also gratified by the opportunity to work with Portman. "This can be such a competitive business, and it is rare to have two such strong roles for women in one film," she says. "Natalie is kind and generous, personally and in her performance. She is inspiring to work with."
For Chadwick, one of the exciting prospects of The Other Boleyn Girl was the opportunity to show King Henry VIII as Anne and Mary see him - powerful, charming, and sexy, so different from the way he usually appears, as an older man. "Philippa Gregory had written about Henry as the handsome and intelligent man he was before the madness set in," he says.
To portray the young king, Chadwick looked to Eric Bana. Bana has a well-established Hollywood career, but surprisingly, it was his background in improvisational comedy that appealed to the director. "Eric is a handsome movie star, but his improv experience allows him to show the warmth and humanity of this man who was king of England."
"My wife had read the book, as had many women I know, as I later discovered," Bana says. "I think women are so attracted to it because it shows two very strong sides of the female psyche: in modern terms, Anne is the professional, ambitious woman, while Mary wants love and family. I love Philippa's writing - it is very vivid, full of tasty and unsavory characters.
"What appealed to me was the complexity of the man," Bana continues. "I felt that even when he behaved badly, there was logic to it that I could unde
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