Scarlett Johansson is currently most recognizable for her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But the actor has been in the industry for decades with many memorable films. Johansson’s career has contained blockbusters and independent films alike, but one movie in particular had a stacked cast and a famous story. The Other Boleyn Girl premiered in 2008 and featured Johansson as the title character. Now over a decade later the movie is popping up again on Netflix. In Johansson’s long career, the film may not immediately come to mind, but fans can watch the period piece on the streaming platform this month.
The Other Boleyn Girl depicts the well treaded story of Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn. Anne has been the subject of many film and television series, but the whole story is not always told. Scarlett Johansson’s film covers not just Anne’s relationship with Henry VIII but her sister Mary as well. Natalie Portman stars as the more famous sister, Anne. After Henry VIII (Eric Bana) becomes dissatisfied with his first wife Catherine of Aragon, he begins looking for new avenues. Catherine bears him a daughter but Henry needs a son to take over the throne one day.
Mary and Anne are depicted as being as different as night and day and both vying for the attention of the king. Henry is with both of them but eventually divorces Catherine and marries Anne. Anne has no better luck of bearing him a son but gives birth to one of the most beloved monarchs in English history, Queen Elizabeth. The film is based on the bestselling book by Philippa Gregory of the same name (via NPR). Though the story is based in fact, the adaptation is not necessarily historically accurate. Collider points out that the depiction of Mary as “shy and naive” was off the mark.
Mary was in fact the first sister to draw Henry’s attention due to her many affairs at French court. She would go on to marry William Carey and after his death William Stafford. Whatever historical inaccuracies the Scarlett Johansson film contained, there is no doubt that the film’s high budget and Hollywood royalty made for an impressive film. The Other Boleyn Girl is undoubtedly highly glamorized, but there can be fun in that as well.
Even so, many considered The Other Boleyn Girl to fall short of expectations. Roger Ebert was particularly harsh when the film premiered, only giving it 2 and a half stars. Instead of a sweeping historical tale, Ebert accused the film of lacking depth and being more concerned with a cat fight. Mary and Anne consistently fight over Henry, someone who has no genuine love for either of them and is only interested in an heir. The two are so competitive that it lacks any nuance. The Other Boleyn Girl has a 43% on Rotten Tomatoes and a dismal 6.7 stars on IMDb.
But while the film failed critically, people continue to be fascinated by the subject matter. Scarlett Johansson’s character Mary is often not included in the story of Anne Boleyn. She appears fleetingly in Showtime’s series The Tudors, appearing slightly more accurate as more aware of the desires of men. Anne Boleyn of course always gets traction. Natalie Dormer portrayed Anne in the Showtime series for 2 seasons until she lost her head. Anne continues to get massive play and even has a new television series. Jodie Turner-Smith appears as Anne in a limited series depicting the final months of the queen’s life (via Indie Wire). Turner-Smith states that Anne is still a relevant character to this day. Her story is an important female-centric tale about the indictment of patriarchal society.
Anne is not the only one who continues to have life after The Other Boleyn Girl. Natalie Portman has been critically acclaimed since then, winning an Oscar for her subsequent film Black Swan (via Slash Film). Scarlett Johansson has jumped from blockbuster to blockbuster and struck gold in the MCU. First appearing as Black Widow in Iron Man 2, Johansson played the Russian spy Natasha Romanoff until her last appearance in the Black Widow film. Johansson has been open to Marvel appearances but is focusing on her own projects. She has several upcoming projects such as Asteroid City and Bride which is in pre-production.