It’s 3 AM in central London – dark and quiet except for the odd car and the hum of generators huddled round the outside of Westminster Cathedral. But here, inside, light is flooding in through the windows as though it was midday …
And in the minds of the 150 or so people here it is midday and this isn’t London, it’s the Escorial palace in Spain in the year 1588. King Philip II of Spain, the most powerful man in the world, is about to tell his ministers that he now has the right to invade England – the Spanish Armada is about to be launched.
But this isn’t a dream, it’s a movie and as the historical adviser on this and Elizabeth before it, it’s a paradox I’m getting used to. People often ask me if the films I work on are ‘true’ – if they are ‘what really happened’ and, as an occasional contributor to Shekhar’s blog I’m hoping to explain over the next few weeks of filming a little of how history and drama are blended to make this movie, how making films with Shekhar is not simply about historical truth but interpreting the past through dialogue and metaphor – something we can all do and the thing that makes history matter to every generation.
I’m going to look at how Shekhar developed the historical themes for this movie, how we found ways of condensing not just years of historical narrative, but a feeling for the time and place into scenes and characters that can tell the story of a age in just two or so hours. It’s always a tall order and the story we will tell can never be ‘exactly what happened’ but it will be about what it was to be an Elizabethan, how the world looked to them and how their concerns are often still our concerns today. Please feel free to chip-in with any thoughts or questions about the film or the time (or indeed Elizabeth for that matter). History is about dialogue so let’s talk.