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Apr 19, 2020
Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult Dress Up for a Royal Fantasy

As Russian monarchs in Hulu’s upcoming series The Great, the costars put a saucy spin on the period piece for your next quaran-TV escape.

There have always been despots, but once upon a century there were moments of enlightenment amid monarchical madness. In 1762, Catherine the Great seized power in Russia, engineering a coup against her feckless husband, Peter III, and—current world leaders, take note—transforming an uncertain era into a Golden Age. She didn’t exactly abolish the feudal system (that’s a monarch for you), but she aligned her country with Europe and even had herself inoculated against smallpox to prove to her people that the science was sound. The Great, a new series which premieres next month on Hulu, tells the story of Catherine’s rise, with Elle Fanning shrewdly strategizing as the young monarch and Nicholas Hoult flouncing and fulminating as Peter. With some dramatic license, the show is a rich, wild portrait of one of history’s greatest executive moments. “It’s honestly kind of Shakespearean,” says Fanning. “It is hard-core monologues of amazing language that’s absolutely hilarious and dark.”

The cheeky scripts—by Tony McNamara, the Oscar-nominated cowriter of 2018’s The Favourite—are full of vibrant one-liners that make for a deliciously royal romp. Hoult’s character, for one, makes sudden pronouncements like “I would like a bird that shits chocolate!” and the actor says he frequently cracked up on set, citing the time he told Catherine he couldn’t join her in bed because he “ ‘blew my bag in another woman.’ ”

“I’d never heard the expression ‘I just blew my bag,’ ” says Hoult. “It’s so ridiculous, and I almost couldn’t say the line. Even the camera operator was laughing.” The 30-year-old actor also starred in The Favourite, as the priggish adviser Harley, and took inspiration from that film. “At moments, I’d think, Ah, what would Olivia do?” he says of star Olivia Colman, who won an Oscar playing another erratic and spoiled royal, Queen Anne.

As for Fanning, she ascended not just to the throne for the series but also to the role of executive producer, a TV first for the 22-year-old. While pushing to get The Great made, she often found herself in meetings with the usual male execs. “It was interesting to just be in a room full of men,” Fanning says. “As I get older, I realize how my voice does have self-worth. My opinion does matter.” Life began to imitate art imitating history. “I felt very much like Catherine.” [Source]


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