Two very different Focus Features titles, Morgan Nevilles Mister Rogers doc Wont You Be My Neighbor? and the British period piece Mary Queen of Scots, each with their own touch when it comes to history.
Neville was drawn to Fred Rogers oddity, but there was something greater in the PBS childrens talk show host: “Hes a voice you dont hear in our culture today,” said the director, “Where are the grown-ups in our culture? Where are the leaders? The movie is about making moral decisions, about what neighborhood we want to live in.”
Rogers took children seriously, and knew they were smarter than the general public wanted to let on. There was an age-old notion during the 1950s and 60s to always protect kids, to protect them from tragedy.
When Bobby Kennedys funeral was going to air after his assassination in the summer of 1968, Rogers knew children would be watching it on a Saturday. He knew he had to get on the air before hand and brace them. “He helped them process things so they wouldnt build up a fear,” explains Neville.
A trained minister and in child development, Rogers spoke to the better side of people, even when they had their slanted agendas, and at times made progress. President Richard Nixon was on the brink of reversing LBJs public television funding, poised to cut $20M. Rogers squared off with Senator John Pastore who had essentially already made up his mind at the time to cut funds. Rogers ultimately melted the hardened Senator and rescued the public TV monies.
Wont You Be My Neighbor? was one of Focus Features highest grossing pics of the year, counting over $22M at the domestic box office.
Similar to how Rogers spoke truth to power, Josie Rourkes movie Mary Queen of Scots is built on the premise of two powers speaking truth to each other, Queen Elizabeth I and her cousin Mary Stuart, circa 1500s.
Dr. John Guys book “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart” centers around the theory that the two actually met, and looked each other in the eye as they contemplated their kingdoms fates. History-philes raised objection to Guys theory that the two met up, but the author told Deadline today that six years ago, an auction house possessed docs that indicated the two complicit, yet warring cousins, had a meeting that was in the cards.
The pics screenwriter Beau Willimon was taken by Guys approach showing the duos adversarial nature. “Typically Elizabeth is this hardened and cold person who is fully formed and Mary is often portrayed as impulsive and reckless. What John posits, and exceeds to prove, is that Mary was the politically savvy one and her choices were well thought out and not purely driven by emotions. Elizabeth was much more insecure in her reign and Mary about leadership and strength,” said the Neflix House of Cards creator.
Mary Queen of Scots is the closing night film at AFI Fest in Hollywood and opens on Dec. 7 in U.S./Canada.