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Blanchett Reprises Role as British Monarch in 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age'

Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett returns to the role that earned her acclaim almost a decade ago and Shekhar Kapur is again director for a stirring historical drama that continues the story begun in their 1998 film. Alan Silverman has a look at Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

It is the late sixteenth century and after three decades as England's monarch, Queen Elizabeth I is still beset by treachery and international intrigue. The greatest threat comes from Spain where King Philip II is preparing to send a huge armada of warships against the outnumbered British.

With the stage set for international conflict, Elizabeth also faces threats at home from fundamentalist Catholics who view the Protestant queen as a heretic and plot her assassination. Cate Blanchett says this Elizabeth, though still unmarried, is more mature, experienced and world-weary than the naïve young leader she portrayed in 1998's Elizabeth.

"I think the difference for me was how internal the turmoil was: the demons that were revisited and unearthed by her accepting the entry point into the next phase of her life," Blanchett says. "So I think what I found most surprising was given the active, epic backdrop, the bulk of the film is quite interior.

"I was interested in who she was when she was in her privy chamber ...the difference between the public self and the private self," she adds. " I also think that's the same when you meet the current queen. She has a very different speaking voice in person than when she speaks in public."

Clive Owen co-stars as a new man in Elizabeth's life: adventurer and entrepreneur Sir Walter Raleigh.

"There is an attraction straightaway and I think he is hugely impressed with her," Owen says. "The one thing that sets Raleigh apart from everybody else is that he has an honesty about him. There are a lot of people hustling for favor in the court and he has a sort of directness about him. He is bold and straight and I think she finds that very attractive."

However, while the queen values Raleigh's honesty and directness, her most trusted advisor is apprehensive. Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush returns as the security chief and spy-master Sir Francis Walsingham.

"I can tell instantly that Raleigh is going to be trouble and that the mortality of of Raleigh is going to take Elizabeth off the pedestal that I know she needs to be on. I don't want her to have any inkling of a human distraction," says Rush.

Director Shekhar Kapur relishes exploring the mythical aspects as well as the practical realities of Elizabeth's world. While he pays meticulous attention to the historical details in every frame, the Indian-born filmmaker says he crafted the film to have clear relevance to the present world outside the movie theater.

"Let us accept the fact that Elizabeth was a great 'spin doctor.' In fact, at one point she had taken all of her the portraits, destroyed them all and had them repainted," he explains. "There is an interpretation of history that goes on ...and so the only reason to make a film about history and historical people is to see their relevance in contemporary times. Certainly I think the conflict between tolerance and fundamentalism is a constant conflict that we have repeated again and again and then we must suffer again. So there is huge relevance. There is no point in making a historical (film) unless it has relevance to us now."

The international cast of Elizabeth: The Golden Age includes Spaniard Jordi Molla as King Philip; Australian Abbie Cornish plays lady-in-waiting Bess Throckmorton, whose relationship with Raleigh poses an emotional crisis for the queen; and Samantha Morton is the ill-fated Mary Stuart - Mary , Queen of Scots - Elizabeth's Catholic cousin and rival for the English throne.