Mary Queen of Scots

The true story of Mary Stuart and her attempt to overthrow her cousin, Elizabeth I, Queen of England. 

  • Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie
  • Director(s): Josie Rourke
  • Producer(s): Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward    
  • Screenwriter(s): Beau Willimon
  • Distributor: Focus Features
  • Animal Coordinator: Theatrical Animals
  • Release Date: Friday, December 07, 2018
  • Rating: Outstanding

Featured Animal Action

All horseback riders were stunt riders or experienced actors who were skilled at riding, mounting and dismounting. All running/galloping scenes were well choreographed, and actors used caution while on and near animals. The horse(s) rearing was a trained behavior. The horses were specially trained “falling horses” and “lay down horses” that fell on cue onto a soft landing area. When teams of horses pulled wagons or carriages, the drivers were experienced and teams of horses were familiar with each other and accustomed to the pulling action. Whenever horses were seen tied to posts/fences, they were attached to lead ropes tied to posts.



In the opening scene where we see boats on the shore and several soldiers pulling horses from the shallow water, the horses were ridden from their stables to the location by the grooms. A few of the horses were held in the sea only 100 meters from the shore by the trainers. The actors holding the reins in the sea were actually the horses’ grooms. The other horses were positioned in start positions on the beach, which included a horse drawn wagon. The actors mounted their horses. After filming the scene, the riders dismounted and the horses were held side by side at the side of the beach. An actress also holds a dog in the back of the cart. The dog was given food and water between shots.



In the scene where Mary and a line of riders arrive at a castle’s entrance, prior to shooting the scene, a saddler made sure all the saddles fit and all horses were fitted with rubber shoes. Prior to shooting, the horses were brought to set by grooms. Likewise, the cart horses were walked to the set by grooms and hitched up to the cockle cart. On action all horses were stationary as if they just came to a halt and Mary's horse was held by a groom in costume.



In the scene where the actress walks into Mary’s chambers holding a dog, prior to shooting the scene, the trainer placed the dog in the actress’ arms. The actress and dog were already introduced to get them acquainted with each other. Right after filming the dog, they brought him to the trailer, and gave him food and water.



In the scene where we see Elizabeth’s soldiers riding over a shoreline and plain, there holding area at the side of the beach for use of the horses when not being used. The approach to set was set clear of obstacles and hazards Also the riders dismounted when not using the horses for filming and girths were loosened off.



When Elizabeth runs through the snow and watches the convoy ride off, the snow was fake and the horses were tacked up by the horse boxes and ridden at walk to set by grooms. After filming the horses, they were walked back to the holding area.



In the scene where Mary rides with the actor ahead of the army, the actors were well trained in riding prior to shooting the film. The trail for the riders was double-checked prior to shooting the scene.



When we first see Mary’s brother riding over the bridge with the English soldiers, the horses were positioned in the formation along a pathway that led towards the bridge.

At the back of the formation, extras followed on foot. The pathway was cleared and the edges were lined with fencing. The far side of the bridge was also fenced in so the cows were kept in place. The cows’ handlers were in costume, herding the cows the whole time. A green screen was placed over the fencing on the bridge. The green screen will be used to show one of the riders rearing behind the cattle during the battle. This rider was never positioned right behind the cattle.



In the same battle when we see the men on horseback, ambushed in the river, fighting each other, stunt riders were used to fall off their horses and into the river. The actors and stuntmen swung plastic swords at each other. After wrapping for the day, the horses were brought back to their stables and rested.



In the scene where we see a close-up of a foal breastfeeding from her mother as Elizabeth watches on, the horses were only handled by the horse team. The foal had been halter trained for weeks prior to filming. Water was offered regularly to the horses.

Good quality hay was in the mangers. The owner of the horses was in costume and walked them to the stall and positioned them in the middle of the barn. The foal then suckled from the mare



In the scene where Mary says goodbye to James while she’s in a carriage led by horses, her wagon was pulled by four horses. To the right of the wagon was one horse ridden, and one horse stationary. When Mary subsequently rides with soldiers away from the compound, all the riders were mounted the horses were ridden to set.

The horses had their bridles fitted and were led back to set by the grooms. The tracking vehicle and horses moved at the same speed and moved from A to B.



In the scene where Elizabeth rides through the field with soldiers on horseback following her and dogs in the vicinity, all the dogs had leather leads. All horses were shod. The grounds were checked. Water offered to dogs and horses regularly. All dogs owned by same owner. Private land, enclosed by fencing.