NEW YORK – Sometimes a lady likes to have some fun.
For Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), the caustic Duchess of Marlborough in “The Favourite,” that means going out to the palace lawn and firing guns to blow off steam.
“That’s the way she likes to relax,” Weisz says. “Most of us watch TV or Netflix, but she likes to shoot pheasant.”
Reuniting Weisz with “The Lobster” director Yorgos Lanthimos, “Favourite” (in theaters Friday in New York and Los Angeles, expanding through December) is a surreal, pitch-black period comedy set in the 18th century during the reign of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), a petulant, ailing monarch who has all but ceded England’s throne to her longtime confidante (and paramour) Sarah.
But Sarah’s power starts to slip through her fingers with the arrival of her newly employed cousin, the beguiling Abigail Masham (Emma Stone), who schemes her way out of the servants’ quarters and into the queen’s bed.
“It’s a tremendous arc,” says Weisz, 48, whose character endures Abigail’s increasingly ruthless attempts to usurp control. “Sarah goes from basically being in charge of the court to getting dragged through the countryside by a horse with a big scar on her face.”
The film, which is loosely inspired by true events, is considered a lock for a best picture Oscar nomination, as are all three stars in the lead (Colman) and supporting actress (Weisz and Stone) categories. Prior to signing on, Weisz didn’t know much about Queen Anne or the history of the royal family, despite her British upbringing.
Unlike many Americans, “I don’t really have a fascination with (them), although I was very moved by” Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry’s wedding last spring, she says. “Now every little girl of color can think, ‘I could be a royal princess,’ if that’s what they want.”
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