Mary Queen of Scots is the second movie, following Outlaw King on Netflix, to bring audiences a story of Scottish history and nobility. And once more the focus of the story is on the conflict that’s part of that history, particularly the tension between Scotland and England and the former’s desire to be free and independent from its larger cousin.
In this case that’s very literally the case. Saoirse Ronan plays Mary Stuart, who became queen of Scotland when she was just six days old. Forced to abdicate the throne, Mary eventually winds up seeking the protection of her cousin, Queen Victoria I (Margot Robbie), in England. The two are divided on many fronts, though, including Mary’s claim that she is the rightful English monarch, leading to backstabbing, confrontations and rivalry between the two.
Two character posters, one with each of the lead characters, lead things off at the same time the first trailer was released. As many people pointed out, though, the placement of “Born to power” on Elizabeth’s poster and “Born to fight” on Mary’s was kind of backwards when you consider their actual circumstances. This seems like the studio ignoring history in order to position the characters more squarely as rivals, with Elizabeth the one grasping to the throne and Mary the one willing to take up arms to claim what she feels is hers.
The next two posters show the two women in various poses in relation to each other, each highlighting both the friendship and the conflict between the two.
As the trailer opens Mary has returned home to England from Scotland. She wants to make sure she and her cousin Elizabeth rule side-by-side as equals, not competitors or with one subservient to the other. Things quickly become competitive though as Elizabeth’s advisors position them against each other, something Mary keeps trying to avoid but which eventually leads to a clash of armies.
A second short trailer was released just earlier this week that positioned the story as “the epic clash of queens,” showing the two women maneuvering against each other while including blurbs and quotes from some of the positive reviews the movie has already accumulated.
Online and Social
The second trailer opens Focus Features’ official website for the movie, which seems to just offer visitors the two trailers and a brief “About” synopsis. There were also Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles for people to connect with.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
I’m not aware of any TV spots, but online ads have used some of the key art to show off the glamour of the costumes as well as the actors involved.
Media and Publicity
First look photos of Robbie and Ronan in character appeared in EW along with brief details on the story. Ronan was part of Focus’ CinemaCon presentation, where she talked about working with Robbie and what story they were trying to tell while the studio showed off a bit of footage. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio.
A new interview with Ronan and another new still were part of EW’s Fall Movie Preview issue. It was later announced as the closing night feature at the AFI Film Fest. Later on Ronan, Robbie and director Josie Rourke were interviewed together about the production, the nature of the characters and more. Another later feature focused on the same material, including how the two costars worked to stay apart on set to better get in the mood of being rivals.
Robbie appeared on “The Tonight Show” to joke around and show off the look of the movie, with Ronan showing up just a couple days later to talk about the movie, her costra and more. Robbie also stopped in to “Good Morning America” and other shows.
Ronan was also interviewed about the characters and story and again about working with Robbie and more. The two were also jointly interviewed about the production and the political relevance of a story that pits two powerful women against each other, something Robbie also touched on here.
Chateau Marmont in Hollywood hosted a display of costumes from the movie presented by both Vanity Fair and Focus. Those costumes, and the work put into creating them, were the focus of a few stories and interviews with the designers while the sets also got some attention.
Costar Gemma Chan got a bit of attention later on in the campaign, including a short interview and a few TV appearances where she talked about being part of the cast and more.
What strikes me most strongly about the campaign is that on most every front, particularly in the publicity, it acknowledges that a lot of the rivalry and fighting between the two women is the fault of them needing to prove themselves in what is otherwise a man’s world. They’ve been controlled by advisors and regents and so are paranoid when they see any threat to their position, even if it comes from someone who should otherwise be a friend and ally.
That aside, the marketing has focused strongly on the two costars, which isn’t surprising. The story is there, of course, but it’s all about seeing these two actors go up against each other on screen in a period drama. That’s been the topic of the interviews they’ve done while the rest of the media push has played up the design of the set and costumes, offering audiences a spectacle along with the story.