Put Saoirse Ronan in your period piece and you can count me in. The Irish-American actress has a face from another era, and from Atonement to the fantastic Brooklyn, she’s proven that she’s more of the most talented young actresses working today. She’s currently got a number of period pieces on the way, including Loving Vincent, an adaptation of Chekov’s The Seagull, and Dominic Cooke’s directorial debut On Chesil Beach. But one of the most intriguing (and possible eventual awards contender) is her lead role in Mary, Queen of Scots.

Focus Features announced on Thursday that production has begun on the historical drama from British theater director Josie Rourke, making her feature directorial debut. The studio also released the first still of Ronan as the titular Queen, with bright red hair and a midnight blue gown:

Focus Features
Focus Features

Ronan plays the titular controversial monarch, a woman who led quite a fascinating life. Just six days after she was born, Mary Stuart was named the Queen of Scotland, then moved from England and later France for an alliance between countries. At 16 she married and became the Queen consort of France, only to become a widow two years later. She then married her cousin, who murdered someone in front of her while pregnant, and then he was murdered and the prime suspect in his killing then kidnapped Mary and then those two got married. But we’re not done yet! Mary also laid claim to the English crown. She was imprisoned, then escaped, but Elizabeth I of England, threatened by Mary, held the former Queen of Scotland captive for 18 years. Then she was beheaded.

That’s a whole lot of life to cover in one movie, but Mary, Queen of Scots will mainly focus on the relationship and rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth I, who will be played by Margot Robbie. Here’s the official synopsis:

Mary, Queen of Scots explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart. Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry. Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth 1.  Each young Queen beholds her “sister” in fear and fascination. Rivals in power and in love, and female regents in a masculine world, the two must decide how to play the game of marriage versus independence. Determined to rule as much more than a figurehead, Mary asserts her claim to the English throne, threatening Elizabeth’s sovereignty. Betrayal, rebellion, and conspiracies within each court imperil both thrones – and change the course of history.

The film will be written by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon and feature the most British of British casts, including Guy Pearce, David Tennant, Jack Lowden (Dunkirk), Joe Alwyn (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), Martin Compston (Sweet Sixteen) and Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey). Until Mary, Queen of Scots finishes production, keep your eyes out for Ronan on the fall festival circuit with her other upcoming dramas.

More From ScreenCrush