Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning Star in Some ‘Ridiculous’ Scenes on Hulu’s ‘The Great’

The duo star in Hulu’s dark comedy series about Catherine the Great.

The Great has a lot of what makes an ahistorical series truly great – dark humor, dynamic characters, and a piercing satirical edge. Created by the Oscar-nominated screenwriter for The Favorite, Tony McNamara, the show prides itself on being “occasionally true” while following a young Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning), the most well known female ruler in Russian history. And although it very obviously disregards historical accuracy, The Great is a feisty period drama with comedic romps galore.

After marrying the spoiled and overtly idiotic Russian Emperor, Peter III (Nicholas Hoult), Catherine is idealistic about her partner and the concept of marriage. However, she quickly finds out that not only is Peter extremely cruel, but the royal court and nobility as a whole is as despicable as it is powerful. But Catherine’s remarkable determination to reach a level of greatness makes this a twisted and raunchy tale of courage, revolt, and rampant sexual exploits.

And since it lives on Hulu, The Great doesn’t hold back on its graphic and often hilarious sex scenes. Catherine and Peter solely have sex to produce an heir, which leads to such bizarre and awkward exchanges that even the actors had a hard time delivering. “They’re very difficult to do because they are very, very funny, and just ridiculous,” Hoult says on the Variety and iHeartRadio podcast, The Big Ticket. “And already, you’re in a slightly uncomfortable position doing that. But then add the sprinkle of hilarity on top of that and it becomes, yeah, very difficult not to start giggling.”


Fortunately, Fanning and Hoult were already friends before The Great came into existence. In fact, they were cinematically married in the sci-fi flick The Young Ones, where they also participate in some steamy scenes throughout the film – although infinitely milder considering Fanning was just 16 years old at the time.

Despite both on-screen marriages being extremely toxic in many ways, Fanning told Refinery29 that knowing each other beforehand made it a lot easier to participate in sex scenes.

“It definitely helped that we knew each other before. We work in a very similar way.” She added, “It might be because we were both child actors and we both grew up on sets. We love to challenge each other — he and I were really trying to push each other’s buttons in this playful way.”

The 22-year-old actress has been acting in films since she was just three years old, starting out as the younger version of her sister Dakota and then landing lead roles by the time she was eight. Fellow child actor Hoult started his career at age three as well, first acting in plays and then quickly transitioning to big-name films and television shows. According to Fanning, their familiarity with the process of shooting and preparing for scenes allowed them to work together well and it certainly translates to their on-screen chemistry.

“I felt so comfortable with Nick. In most of those scenes when we heard ‘Cut,’ we would just be dying of laughter,” said Fanning. “I think there’s this wide shot later on in the show, and the whole time we are giggling.”

For those who binged the entire show in a day or two, the arrival of season 2 feels incredibly distant. And after leaving viewers with such a massive cliffhanger, the wait is almost painful. Hulu has yet to confirm a second season but fans are hopeful as the show’s popularity continues to grow. With so many problems to resolve and characters to further develop, it feels like The Great has a solid chance of continuing to feed our historical dramedy desires.

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