Only July 9, 1762, a 33-year-old Catherine II put the finishing touches on her long-gestating coup and ascended to the Russian throne. By many accounts, the next several decades were among the brightest in the country’s history, leading to both an expansion of territory and an increased investment in the culture and arts. As one of history’s most powerful woman leaders, it should come as no surprise that the accomplishments of Catherine the Great are in a period of cinematic reconsideration. Now, hot on the heels of HBO‘s Helen Mirren limited series “Catherine the Great” comes “The Great,” a Hulu miniseries that positions Elle Fanning as the young empress.
As if you could not already tell by the teaser, “The Great” is the brainchild of showrunner Tony McNamara, best known as the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind 2018’s “The Favourite.” Much like that feature, “The Great” promises a mixture of aristocratic opulence and back-room statecraft, with just a dash of foppish Nicholas Hoult to make the whole thing go down smooth.
During this past week’s Television Critics Association panel, Fanning and McNamara were very upfront about their decision to make “The Great” less a powerhouse of historical accuracies and more a blend of fact and fable. ” “We pride ourselves on not being historically accurate, so there is room to experiment,” Fanning said during the panel. “You can look at so many oil paintings of someone, but they probably didn’t even look that way.” If “The Great” does intend to view contemporary politics through a historical lens – or view historical events through a contemporary political lens, whichever comes first – this willingness to let Catherine’s life serve as allegory should make for a very interesting approach.
“The Great” will debut on Hulu on May 15, 2020.