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Guest Wednesday 5: Five Favorite Tudor Movies by “The Crown” Author, Nancy Bilyeau

January 18, 2012

by Nancy Bilyeau

My debut novel, “The Crown,” is a historical thriller set in Tudor England. My protagonist is a Dominican novice forced into a conspiracy and quest that could stop the Reformation. I chose this time period because of a nearly lifelong obsession with all things Tudor. I’ve given up trying to make sense of it. I just know that I’m happiest when I’m in my Tudorverse.

If you love the 16th century, then you not only read the books but also watch the films and TV shows. It’s possible I’ve seen every show set in the 1500’s, and I find something to adore in each and every one. Showtime’s “The Tudors,” starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, lured a lot of new people to the party while infuriating the stalwarts for its license with facts. (Henry’s two sisters merged into one who married the decrepit king of Portugal and then murdered him—NO WORDS for how wrong this all is.) But in its defense, when the series hewed closer to historical truth, such as the sequence showing the harrowing execution of Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dorner), it was very fine indeed. And I enjoyed the performances of James Frain as Thomas Cromwell and Sam Neill as Cardinal Wolsey. Henry VIII did have an eye for executive talent as well as female flesh.

As for recent feature films, the two best known are “Elizabeth,” starring Cate Blanchett as the (Not in This Film) Virgin Queen, and “The Other Boleyn Girl,” with Natalie Dormer and Scarlett Johanson as two (Very Impatient) Ladies-in-Waiting.

I would have to say, though, that it is these five Tudor movies that are closest to my heart:

1.)   “Anne of a Thousand Days.” (1969) A wonderful costume drama starring Genevieve Bujold as a spitfire Anne Boleyn holding off Richard Burton’s Henry VIII with insults: “You make love as you eat, with a great deal of noise and no subtlety!” These two have fiery chemistry, especially when she’s telling him off on the way to the Tower of London.

2.)   Shakespeare in Love.” (1998) It captures the magic of inspiration as Joseph Fiennes finds his way to write plays through his mad adoration of Gwyneth Paltrow. Also, Dame Judi Dench makes a sensational Elizabeth I while looking nothing like her and saying words Our Bess would never utter. But Dench pulls it off.

3.)   Man for All Seasons” (1966) Sir Thomas More does not seem to be faring well these days—for some reason he’s out of favor. Regardless, this is a very well written film that explores the life of a man who must follow his conscience, and loses his life because of it.

4.)   “Orlando” (1992)  I love this movie because it is just so bizarre. Elizabeth I played by Quentin Crisp? A young nobleman who never ages and changes gender? Oh… why not. It’s based on a Virginia Woolf story. And there’s that great ice skating scene with visiting Russians.

5.)    “The Sea Hawk” (1940) I am fully aware that “Essex and Elizabeth” has a “real” story in it AND the wondrous Bette Davis, but in this Errol Flynn movie you get insanely fun sword duels with Flynn as a pirate  taking on the Spanish fleet. And Flora Robson makes a smashing Queen Bess too.

Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

Nancy Bilyeau’s debut novel, The Crown was released by Simon and Schuster/Touchstone in January, 2012, to rave reviews from Entertainment Weekly, O Magazine, and of course, my blog. Thanks again, Nancy, for sharing your top 5!- E

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