‘Mary & George’ director says he learned “a lot about orgies” while working on the “X-rated” romp

‘Mary & George’ director says he learned “a lot about orgies” while working on the “X-rated” romp

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Nicholas Galitzine & Julianne Moore at the UK premiere of 'Mary & George' | Photo Credit: Getty Images

They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but it’s hard not to be jealous of our friends across the pond who get to see the historical miniseries Mary & George—one of our most anticipated show’s of the year—a full month before we do in the states.

Actually, a lucky few got an even earlier peek when Mary & George made its world premiere this week in London, and now that reviews and first reactions are rolling in, it’s sound just as wildly shady and horny as we hoped.

The series is based on the “true” (depending on who you ask) story of Mary Villiers, Countess of Buckingham (Julianne Moore), who after the loss of her husband resorts to desperate measures to hold onto her power in early 17th century England, namely: using her son George (Nicholas Galitzine) as a honeypot for the infamously promiscuous and sexually fluid King James VI and I (Tony Curran).

Trailers for Mary & George teased a gorgeously lush period piece with a decidedly modern spin, all foul-mouthed and whip-smart and extremely laissez-faire about sex. Galitzine—fresh off a breakout year in Red, White & Royal Blue and Bottoms—seems to have thrown himself into all sorts of compromising positions for the role, and from the looks of it, the Oscar-winning Moore gets her fair share of queer entanglements, too.

And, guess what? It sounds like the series lives up to the hype, providing “everything you want in a period romp,” per The Guardian.

In its four-star review, The Evening Standard provides even more details about what’s in store for this apparently “X-rated” (their words) series: “There are orgies, a penis swinging in the shadows, and an intimate look at how George, er, prepares himself for the king.” They also add that “literally everyone is shagging” throughout, which gives the episodes “a lively, thrillerish quality.”

Both stars seem to be earning high praise for their work, too. Attitude calls Moore’s work “sublime”—shouting out her “faultless” British accent as the only American in the ensemble—and Digital Spy notes Galitzine is solid even up against his more seasoned co-star, spending much of the series in a “a state of desirous undress.”

The buzz has bubbled over to Gay Twitter™ where folks are sharing their early hot takes and excitement, too:

And, yes, if it’s not already clear, there is plenty of sex in Mary & George, which Attitude writes is “mostly queer” but “not treated as scandalous and salacious,” noting that these many intimate scenes are helpful in driving the plot forward, and are approached with authenticity and care by director Oliver Hermanus.

Hermanus, who himself identifies as gay, is a Cape Town-born filmmaker who first popped up on our radar with his 2019 romantic war drama Moffie about a young man who discovers he’s queer while undergoing his compulsory military service in South Africa. He followed that up with the Bill Nighy-starring drama Living—which earned Oscar nominations for its lead actor and script—and will next be helming The History Of Sound, the gay love story set against the backdrop of WWI with Paul Mescal and Josh O’Connor.

But nothing Hermaus has directed so far could’ve prepared him for Mary & George. As he told Attitude at the series’ red carpet premiere: “Orgies are not easy to choreograph. I learned a lot about orgies on this job—that was an education.”

He adds that his approach to queer sex in the show—no matter how many people were involved—was to keep it feeling “authentic and naturalistic and real,” sharing that he spent a lot of time discussing the logistics of these scenes with his cast and crew throughout the process.

As the filmmaker notes, it’s hard to imagine a series like Mary & George even existing in the past: “These kinds of scripts, this narrative, I doubt it. I think even just the fact that some of the things these characters say, 10 years ago you couldn’t say on television.”

The times they are a-changin’—and our TV screens are all the better for it.

Mary & George will premiere on Sky Atlantic in the U.K. on March 5, and then in the States on April 5 on Starz and streaming on the Starz app.


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