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Some of you may be asking, “who is Boudica and why does she deserve a movie about her deeds?” Well it’s time for a quick history lesson – Boudica was the wife of Prasutagus, the Celtic King of the Iceni tribe in modern day Norfolk, England. Prasutagus allied himself with the Romans during their conquest of Britain and when he died he left half his kingdom to the Roman Emperor and the other to his daughters. However, the Romans refused to enact on the will and their soldiers flogged Boudica and raped her daughters. Boudica ended up uniting the Briton tribes and destroyed the provincial capital of Camulodunum (modern-day Colchester) as well as Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St Albans) and nearly forced the Romans to abandon the province before being defeated at the Battle of Watling Street and allegedly poisoned herself.
A silent movie was made about her in 1927 and in 2003, a TV movie starring Doctor Who‘s Alex Kingston was made, portraying Boudica’s story. As well as a loose adaptation with Hammer Films’ The Viking Queen. Boudica’s story would still be great for a Spartacus, Gladiator or Braveheart style epic (hint hint to any Hollywood producers reading this).
Boudica is an icon in the UK, the warrior queen who resisted the Romans, yet ended up becoming a symbol for British imperialism. She has famously been described as tall with fiery red hair, while wearing blue war paint on her face and charged into battle on a war chariot. So let us look at 10 actors who could play the iconic woman who was the bane of the mighty Roman Empire.
Kicking off this list is Gemma Arterton who has shown terrific range in her body of work. She has appeared indie movies and blockbusters, ranging in comedies, historical dramas and action movies. Arterton was once seen a rising star in Hollywood, appearing in Quantum of Solace, Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time but she has been more focused on starring in British movies, TV shows and West End productions recently. She does deserve a chance to lead a major production again.
Arterton’s experience in dramas like Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Disappearance of Alice Creed and Byzantium shows she could easily handle the emotional trauma Boudica’s suffers. Her role as Clara Webb in Byzantium, a woman who is coerced into prostitution but willing to do anything to protect her daughter would be the best model for Arterton to play Boudica. Boudica and her daughters were tortured and would have been mentally scarred by what happened to them, leading to Boudica going on a quest of freedom and vengeance, a little like Clara had to go through.
Arterton has shown her ability with action in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, fighting off witches with her fists and various fantasy weapons, so would fight well in battles. And as shown in Quantum of Solace and Prince of Persia, Arterton can provide spunk and wit, useful for light relief if she needs to put down someone who insults her gender.
Emily Blunt’s action credentials have risen exponentially since starring in movies like Edge of Tomorrow and Sicario and serves as great examples on how she could play Boudica. In Edge of Tomorrow, Blunt developed plenty of muscle tone as Rita Vrataski and that role can be a template for her Boudica, cold and ruthless but also suffering tragedy because of all the horrors she has seen. It would be a great twist to see Boudica as a woman suffering from PTSD that influences her mission to liberate the Britons and get revenge against the Roman Empire.
Blunt’s first ever role was appearing in the 2003 TV movie, but now she would be a great candidate for the Warrior Queen.
Since breaking onto our screens in 2011 when appearing in The Tree of Life, Take Shelter and The Help, Jessica Chastain has earned a reputation for being one of the best actresses of her generation, having been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for Zero Dark Thirty and Best Supporting Actress for The Help. Chastain has shown her range during her short film career, being strong, steely types in Zero Dark Thirty and Lawless, a strong leader in The Martian and in Crimson Peak shows she can do an English accent. She is set to flex her action muscles in The Huntsman: Winter’s War and in Lawless her character was raped but kept a strong front. Chastain is also a natural redhead, which along with her virtues as an actress, would put Chastain in good standing to play Boudica.
Standing at 6 ft 3 Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie is a giant of a woman and as she has shown in her role as Brienne of Tarth a badass who can take on some of the best warriors of Westeros. It would be easy to believe that Christie could lead an army, she plays Captain Phasma in the Star Wars series and would be able fight against seasoned soldiers of the Roman Empire. In Game of Thrones, Christie has shown she can be motivated by revenge, so has the necessary physical and emotional characteristics to play Boudica. But would the role be too similar to Brienne of Tarth?
Swedish Rebecca Ferguson is an actress whose star is on the rise and her action credentials have been fully shown in last year’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. She was able to hold her own against highly trained rogue agents, including the huge Jens Hultén in a knife fight in London. Since that role she has earned herself big roles in adaptations of The Girl on the Train and The Snowman.
As well as appearing the well regarded Mission: Impossible sequel, Ferguson has plenty of experience in historical roles, starring BBC miniseries The White Queen set at the height of the War of the Roses, the role that earned her the Mission: Impossible role, leading to the biblical miniseries The Red Tent and appearing with Dwayne Johnson in 2014’s better version of Hercules.
Ferguson is adept at using ancient weaponry and being in commanding positions. She is also perfectly able to perform with an English accent and would be a great fit for Boudica.
When thinking of redheaded actresses, Karen Gillan is often one of the first to come to mind. Best known for playing Amy Pond in Doctor Who, Gillan’s reputation as an movie actress is growing, starring in the horror movie Oculus and playing Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy. She is also set to star in the western In a Valley of Violence and the ensemble sci-fi movie The Circle.
Throughout her career Gillan has been capable strong willed, fiery characters while also being able to show vulnerability: necessary features to play Boudica, the warrior woman who also has to deal with the psychological scars of what happened to herself and her family – leading to her bloodlust in battle. Gillan’s natural Scottish accent may lead to comparisons to Braveheart but she is capable of performing with an English accent if required.
Weirdly one of the best actresses to play one of Britain’s greatest icons is a Frenchwoman. Eva Green has shown herself to be a fantastic actress, appearing in independent movies like The Dreamers and Perfect Sense, mainstream movies like Casino Royale and leading the horror series Penny Dreadful. She has also shown capabilities in action roles, being the best part of The Golden Compass and stealing the show in two Frank Miller adaptations, 300: Rise of the Empire and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
Green’s role as Artemisia in 300: Rise of the Empire is what would put her in the best stead to play Boudica. Artemisia was the skilled admiral of the Persian navy who is determined to destroy Greece after her village is destroyed and she was made into a sex slave. The movie version of Artemisia has a similar backstory to Boudica so it would be easy for Green to play the Briton warrior queen. Green could also exhibit the more vulnerable aspects of the character like she did in Casino Royale.
But Green has appeared in a number of historical roles, including Kingdom of Heaven and Camelot, so she may not want to star in another epic.
Antje Traue is best known for playing Faora in Man of Steel. Despite it only being a supporting role, Traue was a scene stealer as General Zod’s loyal lieutenant, a powerful Kryptonian who gives Superman a good kicking because of her experience with fighting and warfare.
Traue obviously has the action chops to play the rebellion leader, being willing to go head first into battle and like Faora, Boudica could be a fierce woman of action who is willing to take ruthless and reprehensible action in her quest for vengeance. It would be a great story arc – Boudica and her family get attacked, she rallies the tribes against the Romans and leads them to spectacular victories. But she would also commit atrocities and by seeking vengeance she would rush to battle and her defeat.
Carice van Houten
Another Game of Thrones alumni to make it on this list is Dutch actress Carice van Houten. Best known as Melisandre of Asshai, the red priestess who is able to manipulate men to do her bidding, convinced in her cause and willing to take any action she thinks is necessary.
As well as starring in Game of Thrones, van Houten has won five Golden Calf Awards at the Netherlands Film Festival, including for her role in the excellent Dutch movie Black Book where she plays a Jewish woman who works with the Dutch resistance during the Second World War and has an affair with a German officer. She also played the villain in the medieval set Black Death, playing a crazed cult leader of a village who had survived the great pestilence.
Carice van Houten has the confidence and presence to play the leader of a rebellion and at the age of 39 should be able to bring a certain level of gravitas to the role.
Alicia Vikander is another actress on the rise, having a bumper 2015 starring in Testament of Youth, Ex Machina and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and capped off with an Oscar win for her role in The Danish Girl. It is an impressive filmography, made even better when you consider her earlier roles in A Royal Affair and Anna Karenina.
Vikander’s talents are unquestioned and she is deserving of most of the praise she has received. Vikander has shown in Testament of Youth that she can play a determined woman who did not let gender and social expectations define her; she carried on with her duties despite all the losses she suffers. Her version of Boudica could be a very stoic warrior who suppresses her own pain for the greater cause of freedom and independence and giving closure to her daughters. Plus Vikander can do a very good English accent.