Elizabeth I (BBC/PBS Boston, 2005) begs attention to its lead, distinguished British actress Anne-Marie Duff. Among her many credits, Duff starred in Shameless (series streaming on Netflix); had a supporting role as a whiney social-climber in the BBC2/HBO mini-series, Parade's End; and she just ended a run at NYC's Lincoln Center as a glamorous Lady MacBeth opposite Ethan Hawke's MacBeth.
Elizabeth I: the Virgin Queen, Duff (shown at left) dazzles and convinces compared to other Elizabeth's -- more so than Glenda Jackson, Cate Blanchett, or Helen Mirren, for instance. Although credit or debit goes to the actor, the writing is all important, Duff has said; her Queen is a brilliant living creation rather than a scripted historical figure. Some find Duff histrionic but her view of her job is to embrace the truth of each person she plays -- likeable or not. Here, she dazzles while being difficult and appearing plain.
Tom Hardy (at right and further above), Dudley stayed at her side during his two marriages until his death, leaving Elizabeth bereft and miserable. (His role as Dudley was a star turn for Hardy, who lately fills his dance card in Hollywood blockbuster and B-list movie parts.)
Paula Milne, writer (shown at right), and Coky Giedroyc, director, (shown below) score a triumph making Elizabeth's life and eccentricities imaginable and their plucking the extraordinary Anne-Marie Duff out of the firmament of fine actresses to get the job done. The pulsing, haunting score deserves special mention, a combination of medieval and Celtic songs and chants sung by The Mediaeval Baebes and The London Bulgarian Choir, among others.
Elizabeth I: Virgin Queen, running just under four hours, is available now on DVD and streaming from Netflix or via Amazon and Amazon Instant Video.