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Olivia Colman’s royal capers and tapers

22 January 2019

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There seems to have been a good deal of wrangling on the set of Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite. And not of the kind you’d expect in a farcical drama about power-play at the court of Queen Anne: by all accounts the three female leads had a ball together (even when they weren’t filming actual ball scenes, of which there is an extraordinary example). No, Rakewell understands that ranch-style ‘wrangling’ was required not only for the 17 rabbits that Olivia Colman’s tragic queen keeps in her bedchamber, but also for the inordinate number of candles that were used on set, and which multiplied more wantonly than the rabbits.

Taking its cue from Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, The Favourite was shot using only natural light, which made ‘wax management’ to protect the location’s historic interiors a significant job. The team used more than 80,000 double-wicked tapers during the 42-day-long shoot at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire; ‘We had two guys for the entire film whose job was just candle wrangling,’ production designer Fiona Crombie told Deadline.

The King James Drawing Room at Hatfield House as it appears in The Favourite. Fox Searchlight

Built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, Hatfield mostly stands in here for Queen Anne’s main royal residences, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court – whose Cartoon Gallery, Fountain Court and Henrician kitchens were used for a small number of scenes in the film, but where naked flames are strictly verboten, as is touching the walls. Still, that hasn’t stopped Historic Royal Palaces jumping on the bandwagon with a display of costumes worn in The Favourite, and a short film in which – spoiler alert – Lucy Worsley leads the camera into a cupboard to point out the near-non-existent remnants of the chapel at Kensington Palace (where in the film the queen’s new favourite, Abigail, gets hitched). Sure enough, it’s all mod cons and fuse boxes in there now – and not a candle in sight.

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