The Other Boleyn Girl

The only thing that could come between these sisters… is a kingdom.

Scarlett as: Mary Boleyn
Genre(s): Biography | Drama | History | Romance
Written by: Peter Morgan
Directed by: Justin Chadwick
Other Cast: Natalie Portman, Eric Bana, Kristin Scott Thomas, Mark Rylance
Release Date: February 29, 2008
Production Budget: $35m
Total Worldwide Gross: $77.7m
Filming Locations: Kent, England, United Kingdom

Two sisters, Anne and Mary Boleyn, are driven by their ambitious father and uncle to advance the family’s power and status by courting the affections of the king of England. Leaving behind the simplicity of country life, the girls are thrust into the dangerous and thrilling world of court life – and what began as a bid to help their family develops into a ruthless rivalry between Anne and Mary for the love of the king. Initially, Mary wins King Henry’s favour and becomes his mistress, bearing him an illegitimate child. But Anne, clever, conniving, and fearless, edges aside both her sister and Henry’s wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon, in her relentless pursuit of the king. Despite Mary’s genuine feelings for Henry, her sister Anne has her sights set on the ultimate prize; Anne will not stop until she is Queen of England. As the Boleyn girls battle for the love of a king – one driven by ambition, the other by true affection – England is torn apart. Despite the dramatic consequences, the Boleyn girls ultimately find strength and loyalty in each other, and they remain forever connected by their bond as sisters.

Production Info

Two of Scarlett’s previous co-stars, Kristin Scott Thomas (The Horse Whisperer) and Joanna Scanlan (Girl with a Pearl Earring) feature alongside her in the film.

The majority of the film’s exterior shots were filmed in real castles and estates throughout England. Locations included Hever Castle, Great Chalfield Manor, Lacock Abbey, Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Dover Castle, and Knole House.

Jessica Biel and Emma Bell both auditioned for the role of Mary Boleyn.

The love letter that Mary reads to herself says, “My heart and I surrender themselves into your hands.” This is an actual quote from the real letter, but the letter was to Anne, not Mary.

Initially, the movie characterizes Mary as innocent and morally upright. She had spent time in France, and was reputed to have had several affairs. One reason Henry only wanted Mary as a mistress was because he considered her a whore.

Keira Knightley was originally attached to star in the film. She later dropped out and Natalie Portman was cast as Anne Boleyn.

Character Quotes

  • I want a husband who loves me. Who thinks it first thing every morning and last thing at night.

    Don’t you understand what this means? They’ll separate us. Put me in different accommodation where the King can always find me.

    It should be you in my place.

    I would not presume to interfere in affairs of state.

    But in whose interest do they imagine she’ll act? Certain ly not mine.

    The child is strong. It gives me no rest. Like his father.

    Why did you come, Anne, if all you desire is to torment me?

    Why this cruelty? You know I love him.

    I gave myself to a man I loved. And he loved me.

    I can’t listen anymore. It’s monstrous.

    May God have mercy on you both.

    I beg you, spare my sister. I understand that she has offended you and you wish to replace her as Queen, but must she die?

    He’ll keep his word. I know he will.

    George: Does we lose you now, forever?
    Mary: No, never. I’ll be married, that’s all. Apart from that, it won’t change a thing.

    Anne: I’ve failed you as an elder sister.
    Mary: No one could wish for a better sister.

    Anne: So how was it, the wedding night?
    Mary: It was very satisfactory.
    Anne: Really? William Carey, a good lover.
    Mary: Yes. He was in rather a hurry. And he snores.
    Anne: No.
    Mary: He got up in the middle of the night and used a piss-pot by the side of the bed. It was awful.

    Henry: You’ve been here all the time? How could I have overlooked you?
    Mary: Next to Anne, it’s easy to do.

    Mary: Please don’t be angry with me. You think I desire to go, for this purpose?
    Anne: All I know is that a man that didn’t know who you were was with you in that room for half an hour, and came out besotted. I don’t know what you said or did.
    Mary: Nothing, Sister. Except sing your praises and talk about my husband.

    Anne: I meant to come sooner. I’m sorry I did not. I’ve been kept occupied.
    Mary: So I hear. Amusing the King.
    Anne: Only that, Sister, I assure you. Despite his best efforts.
    Mary: What? And not yours?

    Mary: He cannot marry you. He has his Queen.
    Anne: Who cannot produce a male heir.
    Mary: You’ve reached too high, as always.

    Henry: Why are you here for her? You have put yourself at great risk.
    Mary: Because she’s my sister and therefore one half of me.

  • Quoting: Scarlett Johansson

    On Mary and Anne’s relationship: Sibling relationships are complicated. Everyone can understand that jealousy and competition. The bond is very strong; only your siblings can read you so well and know instinctively how you feel. 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. 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.

    On the period costumes: Costumes are always very helpful. 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.

    On researching the role: Not much is known about Mary’s life. 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 [Author of The Other Boleyn Girl] imagining of this person, and that was incredibly helpful to me.

    On researching the period: It’s interesting to read about life at the Tudor court. As the rest of the world was suffering, fighting religious wars and wars for land, the royal court was its own little world.

    On speaking in an English accent: I think for both Natalie and I as Americans it places a restriction on the intonation. Americans have this tendency to emphasise every single word that we say, whereas there were choice words here. So, it’s a challenge but it’s a fun one.

    On working with an etiquette advisor: It was helpful to have the etiquette supervisor on set just for things like how to carry my hands, how deeply would I curtsy, would I nod towards this servant or hand-maiden, or how close would our relationship be, how long have we known each other? It was those kind of things that were interesting to find out and very helpful. It added to the freshness and authenticity of the period.

    On working with Natalie Portman: A major part of why I joined the project was because Natalie was involved. I was a huge fan of Natalie’s for a long time and always loved her choices and performances. This can be such a competitive business, and it is rare to have two such strong roles for women in one film. Natalie is kind and generous, personally and in her performance. She is inspiring to work with.

    On working with Natalie Portman: I got the opportunity to watch someone do incredible work. She’s really serious about her work but knows how to have a good time. She’s prepared and professional and open when you’re working with her, but in between, she’s entertaining and making everyone laugh and singing.

    On working with Eric Bana: He’s very funny, actually. I didn’t expect him to be so funny. He always plays such serious characters but I didn’t realize that he was a stand-up comedian before he started this crazy job being a dramatic actor. It was just nice to have, especially when you’re doing with a film that’s so heavy to have some lightness on the set. He’s just a great guy all-round.

    On working with Ana Torrent: She’s an incredibly strong actor. I was interested to see who was going to take on this role. It’s a little cameo, but what a delivery. What a sweet and kind of soft-spoken woman, and then to see her have this incredible presence and intimidating. She brought so much integrity to that part and I think it is a part the audience is very sympathetic towards, because she isn’t just hardened. You see the emotion and the pleading and the mind behind it and I think that it’s certainly devastating when she’s carried away, it’s a devastating moment in the film, I think.

    Quoting: Cast and Crew

    Director Justin Chadwick: They brought something to the roles, some sibling intimacy, some closeness, that meant we could take scenes further than the written page. During the course of the film, the sisters’ relationship changes, but they remain tied together as sisters. Natalie and Scarlett portray that beautifully.

    Co-star Natalie Portman: I felt like I had a co-conspirator – she’s a wonderful actor and a very playful person.

    Co-star Eric Bana: Scarlett and Natalie are two freakishly great actors. They are two incredible wells of ability and emotional range. I was in awe watching them work. Having watched their careers progress, it seems bizarre that they are both so young. The sisterly relationship evolved so effortlessly.

    Critical Response

    David Edelstein, New York Magazine: Scarlett Johansson is the revelation, in part because the role is such a muddle of innocence and opportunism and dopey passivity. Johansson opens herself up to the camera, and roots Mary’s improbable transitions in the character’s impossible choices. With no evident strain, with almost everything internalized, Johansson keeps her head and makes you understand why Mary kept hers.

    Derek Elley, Variety: Johansson’s quieter Mary comes through as the pic’s emotional center, her tender love story with the conflicted monarch evoking the only genuine feelings on display. Johansson’s slow-burning performance is a model of restraint, her Mary trying to make emotional sense of an environment in which marriage is simply a political and social commodity.

    Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: Johansson is not at her best playing women less shrewd than herself, but by emphasizing Mary’s goodness instead of her naivete she finds a way to a performance that’s proficient and affecting.

    Ray Bennett, The Hollywood Reporter: Portman and Johansson are more than equal to the demands, but with a tougher-minded script they might have soared. Portman comes to grips with the sharpest lines, but she could have done so much more. Johansson’s character grows the most in the film and once again the star dazzles with her versatility.

    Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: Outside of The First Wives Club and porn movies it’s so rare to see plural females on screen that Portman and Johansson may be forgiven for seizing their roles as lapsed vegans might lamb chops. Both deliver memorable performances.

    Awards and Nominations

    Below is a list of all accolades Scarlett has received for her role in the film.

    NOMINATED: Teen Choice Awards – Choice Movie Actress: Drama