“There was nothing that didn’t appeal to me about it,” the Oscar winner said of the film, in which she stars opposite Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman. “It’s amazing how layered it is. It feels very true even though it’s this outlandish circumstance and uses outsized language for the time period.”
By Hollywood standards, “The Favourite” doesn’t adhere to the confines of a single genre. Based loosely on true events, Yorgos Lanthimos’ film is both a period drama and a black comedy, depicting the adversarial relationship between Abigail Masham (Stone) and Sarah Churchill (Weisz) as they compete for the affections of Queen Anne (Colman) during her 18th century rule. “The Favourite” has a distinctly queer element, too, as both Sarah and Abigail cater to the ailing queen’s sexual desires as a means to elevate their status in court.
Stone recently spoke with HuffPost about the film, her character’s “dicey and complicated” sexuality and why she was unable to keep it together during one of its sexiest and most provocative scenes.
What was it about “The Favourite” that made you want to be a part of it?
The script, the character, the director, the cast — everything. I thought it was incredibly funny. I thought it was really rich, and the three female roles were so beautifully crafted. I was excited to work with [Lanthimos], who is a visionary. He has such a unique way of storytelling, and I knew that this film — as great as it was on the page — would be astronomically more interesting with his eye.
Who is Abigail Hill in your eyes?
To me, she’s a survivor. She’s had a lot of horrible experiences. She’s gone through a lot. She arrives at the palace needing the very basics of safety and security … and maybe more. But that’s what I see her as at her core — someone who’s fighting very hard to survive.
The core of the movie is a love triangle between you, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Coleman. What was it like working with them?
They’re fantastic. Rachel is awesome and hyperintelligent — scary smart and very, very thoughtful and interesting. Olivia is like a marshmallow of a human being — like the most warm, gooey, lovey person you know. She’s just an absolute heart of a person. I think you can feel that through her performance, because she doesn’t really have a guard of cynicism to her at all. She just lets everything out in the most incredible way, and I wish I could be more like that. They both are really special.
Did you see Abigail as identifying as what we would now call bisexual? How did you view her sexuality?
I think Abigail’s sexuality is shut down because of the things that have happened to her. I’m not saying she’s asexual; I’m not saying she’s not bisexual. I just think her sexuality is so secondary to her rise that it’s hard for me to totally interpret what exactly the depth of it is. She’s gone through a lot of trauma and has been used in ways that are unfathomable, so it’s hard for me to know where she operates there.
I think there’s an element of real love and empathy [with Queen Anne]. I think that she does have love for the queen. In terms of her actual attraction or her sexuality with the queen, I think that’s a very dicey and complicated thing to get deeper into because she has so much that she needs.
You’ve mentioned you break easily. Were there scenes that you just couldn’t keep it together while filming?
I blame Olivia for this one, even though I love her so much. When I fingered the queen, we had to put a sponge between her legs because it had to have movement. We couldn’t stop laughing, because I’m fingering a sponge and she’s making sounds. It’s a closeup of my face, but her face is off-camera. We just kept cracking up because the circumstance, this sponge was so ridiculous. So that one was tough.
Did the way your character wields power over men so humorously in the film make you want to do a screwball comedy or anything like that?
Oh, my God. I always wanna do a screwball comedy, yes. Let’s do a little Katharine Hepburn. Anything that has great roles for women, I’m there.
What tested you most about the role?
It was more exciting than anything. I didn’t have to smile and charm — I mean, I did at certain points, but for a reason. It was more exciting, I guess, than challenging because it covered a lot of bases of human nature. Even though people may not be able to relate to Abigail in terms of where she decides to go, I at least got to explore a spectrum of human emotion in a very exciting way.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.