Elizabeth: The Golden Age Premiere

Celebrating a time when England was 'ard

With all this London Film Festival brouhaha, rigmarole and, yes, hullabaloo, it’s easy to forget there are other films making their mark in the capital this week.

And none are more bloody well British than Virgin Queen biopic sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age. It’s got flag-waving, big boats fighting lots of bigger boats, dashing heroes, fundamentalist villains, giant wigs and frankly ridiculous dresses – it’s a tale to make you stand up and salute in the retelling.

Shekhar Kapur’s follow-up to his 1998 epic finds our Proddy Queen Bess fighting off the Spanish Inquisition and the enemy within by preaching religious tolerance and good old John Bull spirit in the face of the knock-kneed King Phillip and his crazy plan to Catholocise the whole damn world.

“At the beginning of the film, Elizabeth is in control of the country,” say Kapur “But as things go along there becomes a bit of a problem with Catholic unrest. However, she doesn’t see it as a Catholic problem, she doesn’t care if they are Catholic or Protestants, they are all her people and she wants to protect them from all dangers, outside and in.”

Inevitably drawing parallels between the Catholic versus Protestant kerfuffle of 1587 and today’s War On Terror, the film explores how fighting for one's rights is always a better reason to kick some ass than unadulterated religious zeal.

“The moment they use the word God, the moment they use the word religion, it’s not about politics,” says Kapur. “It’s about people believing they have the divine right to go to war.”

For star Cate Blanchett, strapping herself back into the bodice allows her to re-explore one of history’s most complex characters.
“I think it was a time when reason and thinking was really celebrated, particularly with Elizabeth I who was a real diplomat in a dangerous time,” she says. “I find that very admirable.”

Does she think it was a role made for her? “Well there’s a long legacy of actresses who played Elizabeth going all the way back to Sarah Bernhard,” she says. “Helen Mirren, Anne-Marie Duff, Judi Dench, Glenda Jackson - my God! There’s a real legacy. It’s a bit like the female version of Hamlet.

“You do have to raise yourself up to the role. They were very complex times. She was a complicated woman and she’s always a challenge.”

Is it a challenge the team would take on a third time?
“Absolutely I’d do a third,” says Kapur. “Just go convince Cate to do it first.”