Scarlett Johansson set to play Mary Queen of Scots

Andrew Gumbel
Friday 29 September 2006 00:00 BST

Scarlett Johansson has already proved she can inhabit the 17th century - thanks to her highly praised turn as Vermeer's Girl With A Pearl Earring. Now the accomplished young Hollywood actress appears to be claiming ownership over the 16th.

Hot on the heels of playing a woman who almost married Henry VIII - in the forthcoming period piece The Other Boleyn Girl - she is now set to play Mary, Queen of Scots in a film written by Jimmy McGovern, creator of the television series Cracker.

Yesterday's Hollywood Reporter announced the 21-year-old actress's decision to take the role. Her mother and manager, Melanie Johansson, will be one of the film's producers, which has a tentative budget of around $25-30 million. No director has been hired yet. Shooting will probably begin sometime next summer.

Ms Johansson, whose notable appearances include roles in Ghost World and Lost In Translation, has been spending much of her time criss-crossing the Atlantic in recent years. She shot Match Point with Woody Allen in London, and then followed it up with the recently released Scoop.

Like many previous retellings, the new version of the Mary, Queen of Scots story would focus on the stormy relationship between the young Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth I, who ended up ordering her execution. There is no word on who might play Elizabeth.

Tudor England has intrigued Hollywood for many decades, going all the way back to The Execution of Mary Stuart, a short made in 1895. Katharine Hepburn took the role in John Ford's Mary of Scotland (1936), opposite the now-forgotten Florence Eldridge.

Vanessa Redgrave played Mary to Glenda Jackson's Elizabeth in the 1971 movie. That year, Jackson played the Virgin Queen in the television series Elizabeth R.

Cate Blanchett won plaudits for the role in the 1998 film Elizabeth, and has just filmed a sequel called The Golden Age, due out next year.

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