Dec, 28 Posted by Admin

The DVDfeverThe Great… what? The Great Soprendo? No, it’s Catherine The Great, but they couldn’t call it that because of the 2019 drama with Helen Mirren.

Beginning in 1761 and billed as “an occasionally true story”, Catherine (Elle Fanning – How To Talk To Girls At Parties) thinks that marrying into royalty is going to be an easy way to be upwardly mobile, so if she marries Peter III (Nicholas Hoult – X-Men: Dark Phoenix), Emperor of Russia, she’ll be Empress of Russia. And she wants a bear, because she thinks they’re cute.

At first, it’s like another Channel 4 series, Married At First Sight, since after she arrives in Russia and meets Peter, their wedding is at 7pm. Meanwhile, he tells her, “I have to get back to my whores… er… horses… I’m going riding”. Full of optimism, she has an over-romanticised notion of her first time between the sheets, but this will be with a man who keeps his dead mother out of a grave by keeping her propped up in the main corridor of the palace.

Beyond that, he’s over-demanding, leading them to being at odds with each other, and when she wants to expand her horizons by teach her new, all illiterate, female friends to read, he retorts, “Women are for seeding, not reading(!)”, and pretty much the only person in her corner is her lady-in-waiting, with whom she develops a strong bond, Marial (Phoebe Fox – Blue Iguana).

However, after the first half of the episode with its introductions and great humor, events slow down as talk moves towards the war with Sweden, the plot direction meanders, and the entertainment level rather flat-lines.

On the plus side, at least no-one attempts cod-Russian accents, as everyone speaks in posh English, but it’s clear that with 10 episodes to its run, it could easily have been cut down to five, since I’ve seen two of them so far, and they both run on for twice as long as they need to.

As an aside, technically, Elle Fanning is too young for the role, as she’s 22 now, and Catherine was 33 at the time she was married.

Also, each episode ends with more modern music over the end credits, with the first two being Patti Smith’s cover for Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World, and Primal Scream’s Movin’ On Up. I can see from the plots that unfold how these songs tie-in very well. I don’t think I’ve come across such attention to detail since BBC1’s late ’90s drama The Lakes, when series 2 did the same thing (and which were similarly talked over by continuity announcers… but surely, the DVDs will solve that? No, those were cropped to 4:3 from a 16:9 original. Sigh)

The Great begins on Sunday, January 3rd 2021 on Channel 4 9pm. The series isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. If you’re in the US and is a bit confused, that’s because it was shown there a few months back on Hulu.

After broadcast, each episode will be on All4.

Dec, 25 Posted by Admin

Welwyn Hatfield Times – In December 2018, a TV production crew arrived in Hatfield to shoot scenes for the pilot episode of a new Russian period drama with a difference.

The show, The Great, is a satirical, comedic drama about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia’s history.

It is a modern love story that incorporates historical facts… occasionally!

Written by the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Favourite, which was also filmed on location at Hatfield House, the series starts on Channel 4 on Sunday, January 3 at 9pm.

The Great stars Elle Fanning as Catherine, who arrives in Russia for an arranged marriage to the mercurial Emperor Peter, played by Nicholas Hoult.

Best known for playing Aurora in the Maleficent movies, Hollywood actress Elle Fanning plays the idealistic, romantic young girl who becomes Empress Catherine.

Describing the 10-part comedy drama, Elle said: “The Great is a historical satire that follows Catherine the Great’s rise to power in 18th century Russia.

“Catherine is an idealistic young woman who finds herself in a backwards world, married to a tyrant.

“She quickly realizes she would be a better ruler and plots to take over the throne.

“Catherine is romantic and naive at the start, but throughout the series her ruthlessness grows.”

Elle signed up for the project after reading Tony McNamara’s script. The Australian also co-wrote The Favourite starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Nicholas Hoult.

“I was drawn to Tony McNamara’s singular voice,” said Elle, who also executive produced the first series of The Great.

“The tone and world he created was one I had never read before. The effortless blend of dark, bizarre comedy and emotional realism.”

“I read the script before I saw The Favourite, so I really had nothing to compare it to. The elaborate period setting, over-the-top situations, yet still grounded characters all set in a high stakes environment. He truly is a writing genius!”

“Above all, Catherine as a character was what made me have to be a part of the show. She is such a dichotomy of a person.”

“Each page surprised me with what she was willing to do. Tony captured her struggle as a woman trying to navigate a patriarchal society and not always succeeding.”

“She isn’t a perfect character. She is learning as she goes along with the guidance from the court.”

From Civic Center Media in association with MRC Television, The Great is a fictionalized, fun, rude and anachronistic story. The script knowingly plays fast and loose with history.

“Very early on, Tony told us to put away our history books,” said Elle.

“I wanted to create my own version of Catherine. I still approached her like I would any character.”

“I guess the most different was it being a 10-hour series instead of a two-hour film.”

“Having the luxury to explore and pace myself with a character was a blessing. Tony is also super strict with our lines. There is absolutely no ad libbing!”

“In a way, being married to the words makes for a whole other kind of freedom. Freedom in the movement and in the rhythm of scenes.”

Elle wasn’t fully aware of the real Catherine’s achievements before filming.

“I knew she was the Empress of Russia, but I did not realize all the amazing things she did for her country.”

“Sadly, the world has reduced her legacy to a false rumor about her and a horse. She brought art, science, and women’s education to Russia.”

“And she invented the roller coaster! I stopped there once I learned that. Anyone who invents the roller coaster has got to be fun!”

The Great does play loose with history. Our show is by no means a historical document, but hopefully captures the essence of the real Catherine the Great and what she achieved and stood for.”

Then there’s the terrific period costumes, although wearing the corsets were a chore.

“The costumes are drop dead gorgeous,” said Elle. “I wish I could say they were as comfortable as they were beautiful.”

“The corsets take some getting used to. I do not envy the ladies of the time.”

“All of us women were so jealous of Nick [Hoult] and the other guys because they would saunter around shirtless or in robes!”

“Corsets aside, the way my costumes tell Catherine’s journey is vital.”

“Her silhouettes stay pretty simple and practical compared to the ladies of the Russian court.”

“My main colors were pale blue and green. But of course, at the end there is an electric pink dress (my favorite) that summarizes Catherine perfectly.”

“It is her birthday dress and the dress she’s going to kill her husband in! It encapsulates her femininity, youth, and boldness.”

Jul, 6 Posted by Admin

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult talk to On The Red Carpet about their satirical drama “The Great,” now streaming season 1 on Hulu.

Jul, 4 Posted by Admin

Indie Wire – The delicious words of writer and series creator Tony McNamara are what drew Elle Fanning to star as the titular Empress of Russia, Catherine, in Hulu’s series “The Great.” In this wild comedy, Fanning turns Catherine into a modern feminist icon up against the foul-mouthed royal boys’ club led by Peter III (Nicholas Hoult), a misogynistic dolt who she’s been forced to marry to escape a dreary life in Prussia.

Fanning said that coming into the role, she didn’t know much about the Empress of Russia, except of course for that rumor that Catherine died while trying to have sex with a horse. “Sadly, that is all I knew,” she said. “Tony’s script isn’t the blueprint for everything that happened and is not a historical documentary. But he’s done a lot of research on Catherine and taken out the bits that would service him.”

If you’re looking for a biography of Catherine the Great, who ruled in the 18th century during the Enlightenment Period, look elsewhere. This series uses her story as the foundation for a revisionist tale of Russian political history, as Fanning’s Empress quietly begins to mount a coup from the inside out, accompanied by her dry-humored handmaid Marial (Phoebe Fox), the obsequious Count Orlo (Sacha Dhawan), and her lover on the side Leo (Sebastian de Souza).

“We wanted to make sure that we were creating our version of Catherine, and the essence of that person, but with all the things that she did do,” Fanning said. “It’s true, she’s the longest woman ruler of Russia. She brought female education, art, and science to Russia, vacillation [from] the smallpox.”

Read More For fans of “The Favourite,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ Oscar-winning black comedy about the folie a trois between Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and two women in her circle (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone), “The Great” is a brazen treat, giddily stomping all over the patina of world history with muddy boots. Fanning said that the series’ flippant tone, which has more F-bombs and C-words than an Armando Iannucci script thanks to “The Favourite” co-screenwriter Tony McNamara at the helm, “is important to bringing it to modern audiences, and showing her as a feminist icon. I really came to know her as one of the first feminist icons. And I don’t know what’s more modern than that story.”

The Great” marks Fanning’s first bona fide foray into leading a comedy, though she did have a supporting role as a daffy journalism ingénue in Woody Allen’s canceled 2019 film “A Rainy Day in New York.” As Catherine the Great, she oscillates between steely reserve, fierce determination, wide-eyed naivety, and gleeful rebellion, which she captures masterfully in her line readings, and through a willingness to debase herself with slapstick setups.

“People perceive me probably as a dramatic actor, whatever that means,” Fanning said, which made “The Great” a unique challenge. “You have to have the comedic timing. The rhythm of [McNamara’s] words is very specific, which was something that obviously Nick Holt was more used to because he was in ‘The Favourite,’” she said. “There’s an element of not being embarrassed. I had to let my walls down to kind of go for it, and be spontaneous and be a bit crazy. You can always come back from that and try to be truthful and let the words speak for themselves. I think the moment you try to make anyone laughs, it’s like crickets.”

Thanks to that big Hulu money, “The Great” features rich, period-specific costumes designed by Emma Fryer and Holly Waddington, and production design by Francesca Di Mottola and Kave Quinn, which were built from top to toe in an East London studio “next to a McDonald’s,” Fanning said. That also meant that Fanning and her female co-stars were very much sucked into real corsets. “It was very constricting, but also helps you know the time, of how we all must have been feeling in that period.”

With films like “The Favourite” and shows like Apple TV+’s “Dickinson,” there’s a surge of interest in revisionist period stories that Fanning said are “going to be around for a long time. People are realizing you can tell these historical stories in a way that will be relatable, and not feel like homework. Sometimes, I feel like watching very accurate, somber, a bit boring and dull at times [period movies], sometimes it’s a bit like, ‘Oh, there’s someone tying a shoelace very dramatically.’ It’s good to spice it up.”

A second season was just green-lit by Hulu this week, and Fanning, who also produces, said that she and McNamara have plenty of ideas and that the story they’ve established in Season 1 still has a lot of mileage, thanks to the bawdy, irreverent approach to the storytelling. “The lives of these historical figures, they must have had so much fun,” she said. “If you look at Catherine the Great’s furniture online, it’s very explicit, but very naughty and hilarious. They had to have a sense of humor. Just because they’re from back in the day doesn’t mean that they didn’t have wild parties, and a lot of fun. They probably had more fun than we do.”

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Apr, 24 Posted by Admin

Vanity Fair – Oscar-nominated writer and showrunner Tony McNamara doesn’t reckon he’ll get any warm, fuzzy letters from historians about his upcoming Hulu series The Great, a deliciously a-historical take on the rise of Catherine the Great. The series, which stars Elle Fanning as the titular Russian monarch, traces the outline of Catherine’s life, then colors it in with lurid details and wild dialogue dreamt up by McNamara—who also wrote 2018’s The Favourite, a punk period piece about Queen Anne.

“I find period shows too polite on the whole,” he said. “They’re so drowned in their own historical facts.”

In a new trailer for the series, available exclusively on Vanity Fair, Catherine begins settling into life with her new husband, the immature Peter III, played by Nicholas Hoult. “She’s an extreme optimist in the beginning, and has this kind of beautiful look on life and love—and then is in for a real big rude awakening when she gets to Russia,” Fanning said of her character.

Read More In keeping with McNamara’s laissez-faire approach, both Fanning and Hoult said that they didn’t really do any research on the figures they’re playing. (“To be honest with you, absolutely, pretty much nothing,” Hoult emphasized.) Instead, they leaned heavily on McNamara’s dense scripts, as well as on the show’s disclaimer—which proclaims that The Great contains “occasional historical facts and clothes.” One of Hoult’s favorite examples of McNamara’s pithy brilliance can be seen in the trailer, when Peter hires a lover for Catherine, then glances down approvingly at his nether regions and simply quips: “Marvelous.

The actor, who also starred in The Favourite as a haughty court adviser, is quickly becoming a go-to muse for McNamara. “His timing was incredible,” the show creator said. “He had an ability to be likable unlikable, and get away with outrageous things.”

Fanning, on the other hand—also an executive producer on The Great—is a new collaborator in McNamara’s life. “She’s such a wonderful person, and she’s always looking for character work,” he said. “She’s really smart, really funny, really spirited…she’s really an original.”

Prior to writing the series, McNamara knew some broader details about Catherine’s life. But he was captivated by her story as he began to do more research. “She was a young woman who took over an empire. She kept the Enlightenment alive in Europe when it was dying. And she invented the roller coaster,” he pointed out.

Still, he stressed, The Great is more about “the essence of the woman, rather than every historical fact about what happened.” The writer wanted to emphasize who Catherine and Peter might have actually been, on a messy, molecular, day-to-day basis. In other words: “I expect historians will be angry.”

The Great will be available to stream on Hulu on May 15.

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