The Favourite is the most polarizing film I can remember in ages.
Among my avid movie-viewing friends, one camp vehemently loathed the storytelling and fish eyed lens – worst film I’ve seen in years! – while the other adored everything about it including Olivia Colman’s Oscar-winning performance as Queen Anne.
I finally saw the movie and…can see both sides. What makes The Favourite blog-worthy is the back story of screenwriter Deborah Davis and the 20 years it took to go from script to screen.
This is the kind of two women committed to their passion and vision long-game story I love.
Nerd that I am, I immediately ran to google after watching the movie, curious for some context. Spoiler: Queen Anne was apparently happily married to Prince George of Denmark who is omitted from the film…
But that’s beside the point.
Deborah Davis studied history at university but knew nothing about Queen Anne until an article in a local paper caught her attention with the quote, “Everybody knows Sarah was having a relationship with Queen Anne.”
She started researching and “very quickly stumbled on the story about women in power and a female triangle.”
It’s unclear when Deborah had her eureka I-think-this-would-make-a-great-movie! moment but knowing nothing about screenwriting she enrolled in a night course to learn and had “a wonderful teacher who taught us, drama is conflict.”
Her first draft in 1998 (1998!!) was called The Balance of Power. She showed the script to producer Ceci Dempsey who had made an independent feature, Bedrooms and Hallways. Ceci was not able to take on the project (#politepass) but on the strength of the draft, Deborah was accepted to the University of East Anglia for an MA in scriptwriting (#masteryourcraft).
Five years and a masters in screenwriting later Deborah went back to Ceci with a new version of the script. This time Ceci was interested and it went into formal development with the (now defunct) UK Film Council (#persistence).
Deborah continued to write drafts (#dedication) and Ceci started pitching. Not an easy sell – “a three-woman, very complex female triangle about love, rivalry, loyalty, revenge.”
In 2010 avant-garde director Yorgos Lanthimos became attached. Ceci continued pitching and selling (#persistence) and started getting financing offers in 2013.
If you’re doing the math, Deborah is 15 years in on the project at this point and Ceci is 10.
In 2015 lead casting was announced. In March 2017 principle photography finally began. August 30th, 2018 The Favourite premiered at the Venice International Film Festival where it won the grand jury prize.