Entertainment

Quebec director unveils vibrant queen in The Young Victoria

The rousing rock-and-roll sensibility of Jean-Marc Vallée's hit film C.R.A.Z.Y. was what scored the Canadian filmmaker his latest gig: director of the British costumed drama The Young Victoria.

The rousing rock-and-roll sensibility of Jean-Marc Vallée's hit film C.R.A.Z.Y. was what scored the Canadian filmmaker his latest gig: director of the British costumed drama The Young Victoria.

Starring British ingenue Emily Blunt as the titular monarch, The Young Victoria chronicles the early rule of England's longest-reigning queen and her romance with her husband Prince Albert, whom she would long outlive.

The lavish production — Vallée's first big-budget English-language film — made its U.K. debut on Friday. It features a script by Gosford Park screenwriter Julian Fellowes and is produced by Martin Scorsese, his longtime producing colleague Graham King and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

"I didn't want a director who would envision all in black and in mourning," King said, referring to the traditional representation of the famed widow.

"I wanted a young, vibrant queen," he said, adding that "Jean-Marc came from that angle and we were on the same page."

'The ultimate challenge'

Vallée shot to international fame in 2005 after the release of C.R.A.Z.Y., his award-winning, pop-music scored coming-of-age tale about a gay youth growing up in Montreal during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.

It proved a critical and commercial success in Canada, was the country's official entry for the 2006 foreign film Oscar, and also delighted audiences internationally (including in New York where the Museum of Modern Art is set to host a weeklong screening of C.R.A.Z.Y. again this month after it received rave reviews in 2006).

Vallée called it "the ultimate challenge" to move from his last film — infused with his own experiences growing up in Montreal — to one about a British royal family he previously knew nothing about.

"They came to me for my storytelling abilities," Vallee said, adding that he nonetheless had to "read and read and become as British or more British than the British."

Over time, Vallée said, he developed "a curiosity and desire and respect, as I was discovering this world."

Labour of love

The project is a longtime labour of love for Ferguson, who has penned two books about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She also spent 15 years shopping the idea of a film about the couple to producers.

"She wasn't [just] small and dark and … dressed in black. In fact, she was the most beautiful, wonderful wife," Ferguson said of Victoria — typically portrayed as a dour widow in her middle age or older.

The couple had "a wonderful love story that wasn't told," Ferguson said.

Princess Beatrice, Ferguson's daughter with her ex-husband Prince Andrew, has a cameo in the film as a lady-in-waiting, making her the first member of the Royal Family to appear on the big screen.

The Young Victoria is slated to hit theatres in Canada this fall.

With files from Sandra Abma

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