18/10/2021

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Lucy Boynton and Kelvin Harrison Jr to portray Marie Antoinette and society composer Chevalier de Saint-Georges in fascinating new biopic

Lucy Boynton

Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Over two centuries on from her death, Marie Antoinette remains a source of fascination: a figure surrounded by mythology and intrigue, whose cultural reach extends far beyond the circles of historians and academics. Now, the last queen of France will be immortalised on screen once again, portrayed by woman-of-the-moment Lucy Boynton.

Marie Antoinette, 1778

Imagno / Getty Images

Deadline reports that the Bohemian Rhapsody and The Politician actress will star opposite Kelvin Harrison Jr (of 12 Years a Slave, It Comes at Night and Waves), who will play the titular role in a new biopic, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Based on a pitch by screenwriter Stefani Robinson, known for her work on Donald Glover’s acclaimed comedy-drama series, Atlanta, the Searchlight project will be directed by Stephen Williams, who’s previously worked on the likes of Lost, Watchmen and Westworld.

Kelvin Harrison Jr

Jeremychanphotography / WireImage via Getty Images

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The new film will chronicle the life of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Born in Baillif in Basse-Terre in 1745, in the then-French colony of Guadeloupe, Joseph was the son of a French plantation owner and former councilor at the parliament of Metz, who conceived a child with a 16-year-old Senegalese slave, Anne Nanon, who was forced to work as his wife’s maid.

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, circa 1780

Fine Art Images / Heritage Images / Getty Images

Georges de Bologne Saint-Georges acknowledged his son by Nanon and gave him his surname, before taking him to France to be educated. The younger Saint-Georges went on to become an accomplished classical composer (often dubbed the first known classical composer of African ancestry), virtuoso violinist, a conductor of the leading symphony orchestra in Paris at the time, and a champion fencer.

His ascension in society was thwarted, however, by a failed love affair with a French noblewoman, as well as a falling out with the then queen, Marie Antoinette. Saint-Georges subsequently served as a colonel of the Légion Saint-Georges, the first all-black regiment in Europe, in the French Revolution, during which he fought on the side of the Republic.

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Produced by Element Pictures, Robinson and Dianne McGunigle (also of Atlanta), the cast of the biopic will also include Australian actress Samara Weaving, known for starring in the 2018 TV remake of Picnic at Hanging Rock, her role in Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood, and for films including Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

While the new project will mark the first time Saint-Georges’ life has been explored in such depth on screen, Queen Marie Antoinette, who was executed in 1793 at the height of the French Revolution, has been immortalised on film on a number of occasions: most notably in WS Van Dyke’s 1938 historical drama starring Norma Shearer; and Sofia Coppola’s lavish 2006 reimagining, with Kirsten Dunst in the titular role, which scooped up an Oscar for Best Costume Design.

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