On-Set Stories Part 1 – Mary Queen of Scots

From feature film ‘Mary Queen of Scots’


3 years ago this week, Mary Queen of Scots was released, & was quite exciting for me as it I had had the privilege of taking part in the production back in October 2017. It wasn’t the first big feature film I worked on – that was Final Score with Dave Bautista a year earlier – but at the time, it was the most high-profile one I’d been involved in, and one where I learned a lot.

It was also the first time I’d had to attend a fitting, and I doubt many other fittings will ever be as challenging as this one. It may not be obvious from this picture, but the outfit is actually made up of five separate pieces – definitely not something you could just throw on before going out! I can imagine noblemen of the 16th century had to get up quite early to ensure they still had time to do things once they’d finally got dressed…

Nick in full nobleman attire on set for Mary Queen of Scots


So, what were we doing?

The scene was a large group of noblemen witnessing the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, played by Saoirse Ronan. It was filmed over the course of the whole day from every angle – it’s so easy to forget how many angles one scene can, and has to, be filmed from! From wide angles to close-ups, never underestimate the number of times the next film scene you watch has been acted out in order to get every angle in…

The set-up was very professional & the only complicated part of the scene (apart from the mildly irrational fear the executioner actor might drop his axe) that Ronan had two dresses on, one of which was revealed under was the other during the scene (if you’ve seen the film, you know what I’m referring to). There was often a 5-10 minute gap between takes while the first dress was reassembled. Given that it probably wasn’t much less elaborate than our outfits, it must have taken a lot of time, and structured procedures, to get the reassembly down to a few minutes!

“Did ya get Saiorse’s number then?!”

When you’ve been on a film set, people may well ask if you have any gossip & what the lead actors were like. Well, unfortunately I’m not yet mates with Saoirse Ronan or the rest of the main cast & crew – nothing was said between takes apart from the crew talking to each other at top speed. We’re generally discouraged from talking to the main actors and crew – they have to remember their lines/actions & keep to schedule, after all!

“Can we spot you?”

On the whole it was a great experience with a very professional crew. As an actor myself I gained a lot from observing how the crew worked & seeing actors at the top of their game. Plus the castle location was beautiful & the attention to detail was admirable. Being on set is always so a lot interesting & I gain so much from them that I don’t mind too much if I don’t make the final edit. This time however, I was quite fortunate to be near to centre stage!

What film would you like to have been an extra in? Let us know in the comments!


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