Mary Queen of Scots director Josie Rourke is "desperate" for the film to succeed to help give more women the opportunity to step behind the camera.

The 42-year-old Brit makes her directorial debut with the period film, which follows the fight for power between Scotland's leader Mary Stuart and her cousin, English monarch Queen Elizabeth I, portrayed by Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie respectively.

Rourke, who became artistic director of London's Donmar Warehouse theatre in 2012, told Britain's The Guardian that she hopes the film does well, not just for her sake but for the future of female directors.

“My experience in theatre is that the door opened a crack and let a few of us in – and people just kept flowing through," she said. "It’s important that this film succeeds, not because I am desperate for it to succeed, but so they will let a few more women through. That is the pressure I feel.”

For the movie, Rourke employed the theatre technique of colour-blind casting, giving Gemma Chan the role of Queen Elizabeth's confidante Bess of Hardwick and Adrian Lester the part of Thomas Randolph, an unconventional move for a period film which has upset some critics.

Responding to them, Rourke said, “I sometimes feel that people’s reaction to a person of colour in a film is more an index of their prejudices than about having a real issue with authenticity.

“Representation is an act of the imagination. Margot Robbie is Australian. Saoirse Ronan is Irish. Jack Lowden is Scottish and is playing an English person, which was probably the weirdest thing for people on set."

Robbie recently landed a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her royal turn.

Mary Queen of Scots, also starring Guy Pearce, Joe Alwyn and David Tennant, hits U.K. cinemas on 18 January (19).