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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 17:04 GMT
Buried Boleyn tale hits big screen
By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Eric Bana
Henry VIII is played by Eric Bana, best known for starring in Hulk
Famous for his six wives, most people have an idea who Henry VIII was.

But few know the story behind his second wife Anne Boleyn and the affair the King of England had with her sister, Mary.

Now, Hollywood stars Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Eric Bana tell that tale in their new film The Other Boleyn Girl.

Based on the best-selling novel by Philippa Gregory, the film portrays sibling rivalry between Anne, played by Portman, and her sister Mary, played by Johansson.

The film, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, also lifts the lid on the love-life of Henry VIII, played by Incredible Hulk star Bana, which helped define the monarch's reign.

'Intriguing'

"I just found the story fascinating," Bana says. "I loved it and wanted to be a part of it.

"It was an intriguing story and the character was obviously very challenging, interesting and historically important and I couldn't say no."

The movie paints the king as fickle in his sexual relationships, swiftly casting the objects of his affections aside.

Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson
Natalie and Scarlett completely bonded
Justin Chadwick, director

"I always came back to the fact that Henry was very juvenile in love when it came to women," says Bana, who has also been seen in Munich and Troy.

"I think that's a very easy place for us to go to as people.

"We can all relate to that period in our lives as young, crazy, infatuated teenagers, falling in love with women who don't know we exist."

Although the story of the Boleyn sisters is relatively little-known, many films have been made about Henry VIII and his mark on history.

'Complex characters'

But Bana said he refused to watch another actor playing the same role as that would have been "confusing".

"It's a difficult balance between needing to know enough about history to be able to have information that you can feed off, but at the same time you have to feel free. But there are these constraints," he says.

"I just tried to construct him from the script and from the book."

Scarlett Johansson
Not much is known of Mary Boleyn, portrayed by Scarlett Johansson
It is the relationship between the two young women that attracted first-time director Justin Chadwick to the plot.

"It was just fortune when I read this, such a fantastic page turner," he says.

"What a great story, a story that I didn't know. And what fantastic, complex complicated characters, with two complex, complicated sisters."

He claims it was easy finding leading ladies to match the personalities of the sisters.

"Anne had this amazing intellect and this kind of dazzling wit and energy and as soon as I met Natalie I saw she had that quality," he said.

"From the moment we started working on it she threw herself whole heartedly into this film.

"In contrast to that, I needed someone who could have an amazing sincerity and subtlety in their performance and that's Scarlett.

"She has this inner quality that is really subtle and I needed a heartbeat for the film, a moral centre," he adds.

"Natalie and Scarlett completely bonded."

Justin Chadwick
Chadwick has not ruled out making another film about Henry VIII

Despite the movie being set in the 16th Century, Chadwick is certain the audience will be able to identify with the characters.

"It was a big thing for all of us to make these characters from history feel real," he says.

"I think all the actors and I were really keen to get under the surface of the characters, but I hope people relate to them because they're real."

Having only touched upon a small section of Henry VIII's love life, would Chadwick consider revisiting the stories behind the rest of his wives?

When asked, he says he would think about a follow-up project if Bana signed up too.

The actor does not rule out a sequel completely.

"No-one's mentioned that before today, so I have no idea whether I'd consider that," he says. "Could be interesting."

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