Interview: Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and producer of The Young Victoria

To celebrate the DVD and Blu-ray release of historical drama movie The Young Victoria, the good people of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment invited Disc Dish to an intimate afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York to meet one of the film’s producers, the Duchess of York herself, Sarah Ferguson.

In between sips of orange blossom tea and nibbles at cucumber sandwiches and buttery scones (okay, actually substantial bites of the sandwiches and scones), we chatted with the ever-sassy Duchess of York about the film’s nearly two-decade-long development and what she may have in mind for a follow-up. Call us crazy, but Fergie seemed delighted to talk about the film and not the other subjects that are regularly covered in the pages of countless tabloids.

DD: As you’ve written two books on Queen Victoria, we know you’re quite a scholar on the subject and that you’ve been involved with The Young Victoria for quite a while.

Ferguson: Oh yes. Seventeen years is quite a long time!

DD: How did it finally come about?

Ferguson: Well, yes, I first thought of the idea of a film about the younger years of  Queen Victoria’s life seventeen years ago. Some years after that, I took it to a big studio in Los Angeles and they got me a screenwriter to work on it. After a time, he showed me what he had written and I saw that he had Queen Victoria in bed with [two-time British Prime Minster] Lord Melbourne. And I said, ‘Where in the history books does it say this? I’m sorry, I simply can’t have that.’

DD: Do you remember who the writer was?

Ferguson: Yes, I do very well, but I can’t possibly tell you because you will also know him. That was seven years ago and I turned the script down because it had to be right or I would be making a mockery of myself. So I said ‘no’ to the script and ‘no’ to the studio and everybody said I was mad, but I had to be true to my core values. So I waited and waited…

DD: And the wait apparently paid off.

Ferguson: Yes, indeed. One day a year or so later, I was introduced to [producer] Graham King and we were having lunch and I said, ‘Come on, let’s make the movie Young Victoria. And he said, ‘Okay, let’s go and ask Marty about it,’ and I said, ‘Who’s Marty?’ So, we went to Martin Scorsese and Marty loved it because he’s such an historian. Then I began running after Graham King for the next five years, usually at all the premieres of Marty’s films—The Aviator, The Departed—and kept asking him, ‘When are you going to make my film?’ Eventually it happened, and with a brilliant team!

DD: As the film’s co-producer along with Mr. King and Mr. Scorsese, what role did you specifically play in the production?

Ferguson: I was determined that it was going to be filmed in Britain and that it was going to be as historically correct as possible. I let all the best people do what they do best—make films—and I stayed away. But I helped them as much as I could with castles and palaces and so on. That was my input and it was like a dream come true.

DD: You’ve said you’d like to develop further projects for film and TV. What else do you have in mind?

Ferguson: I would like to do something like The Tudors on all of Victoria’s nine children because there are some fascinating tales there. Victoria arranged for the marriage of her eldest daughter, Vickie, to Frederick III of Germany, and they were the parents of Kaiser Wilhelm. Britain ultimately went to war against her own daughter, which is quite an extraordinary story. I’ve also written my own novel set in 1759 that St. Martin’s Press put out—it’s called Hartmoor about Lady Margaret Hartmoor who’s red-headed, fabulous and incredibly cheeky. That would make a good movie, too!

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.