‘The Favourite’ Producers on Why Foul Language Was Vital in Creation of ‘Modern’ Period Dramedy

“Because it feels so fresh and immediate, you really are more immersed in the characters and their world and their conflict,” Ed Guiney says

The Favourite
"The Favourite" / Fox Searchlight

With “The Favourite,” producers Andrew Lowe and Ed Guiney collaborated with filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos for the third time, and despite some challenges, they successfully made a period dramedy with a modern and fresh twist.

After thinking about the project for 10 years, Element Pictures co-founders Guiney and Lowe faced a number of hurdles in finally bringing the movie to the big screen, including how to modernize the film in order for it to appeal to a broader audience.

“We kept the politics in the background,” Lowe told TheWrap a day before the film starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz received five Golden Globes nominations. “We hinted at why the battles are being fought, but we don’t go into the minutia details about why those wars are being fought. What’s good about that is that a lot people are often intimidated by those details, and this film doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the history. But if you know the history, you can pick up on a lot of the details.”

Of course, Guiney said, the filmmakers (including others producers on the film, Ceci Dempsey and Lee Magiday, alongside Lanthimos) played loosely with the history of Queen Anne’s relationship with her close friend Lady Sarah and the new servant whom she battles for the Queen’s heart. The “basic DNA is still true,” Guiney said. Even the heavy use of what many would deem foul language, especially the utilization of the “c-word,” helped to modernize the story as well as draw in the audiences to empathize more with the characters and the drama.

“[The c-word] is very harsh in our neck of the woods, but it’s even more harsh in the U.S.,” Guiney said. “I think it was very judiciously and cleverly used in the conflict and the drama, and one of the striking things about the script is how fresh and modern it feels. It’s another thing that makes you feel closer to these characters. If you imagine rendering it in like a Shakespearean language, it might’ve alienated you. Because it feels so fresh and immediate, you really are more immersed in the characters and their world and their conflict.”

Guiney and Lowe had been thinking about bringing the movie to the big screen for 10 years, and before that, it had been in development for another 10, Guiney explained. And when they were finally ready to go into production, scheduling conflicts with Colman and Stone led to a delay of another year.

“That was quite tough — not being able to produce the movie for a whole year was challenging,” Guiney said. “We faced the normal challenges when you are getting this kind of material — being on a budget and delivering something that feels really rich and visually exciting… Logistics of a film on a budget is always tricky. But what we knew is that we had these amazing actors, an amazing filmmaker and an amazing script, so we focused on foregrounding those elements as much as possible and allowing them to shine.”

Guiney and Lowe worked on “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” with Lanthimos as well. This time around, the producers said the filmmaker wanted a lot of rehearsal time to perfect the film.

“He was very adamant to get three weeks of rehearsals, which is a lot before an eight-week shoot,” Guiney said. “We worked hard to enable that and we did, and I think it really added to the feeling of intimacy. Generally, Yorgos is very much about keeping the set as focused as possible. Only people that have to be there should be there, and I guess because we’ve worked together for a fair time, you refine the model and you are learning — that’s the good thing about an ongoing collaboration.”

The team has worked with A24 on their previous films, but Fox Searchlight scored the release of “The Favourite,” mainly because the studio showed interest in it from when it first started being developed.

“A24 have been very good colleagues and friends of us and we’ve had a good experience with them,” said Lowe. “With Fox Searchlight, we’ve also had a positive experience — when times were tough, Fox was there. They have an unbelievable track record for handling awards movies and they have a wide reach. We are already seeing the benefit of that on ‘The Favourite.’”

Indeed, they are. On Thursday, “The Favourite” was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, and all three actresses were nominated as well. This tops the five British Film Institute Awards it has already won, as well as the Special Gotham Jury Award at the 2018 Gotham Awards.