The May 14 release of Universal’s Robin Hood is fast approaching and naturally more info on the pic is starting to seep out. Last Sunday, The Times (via The Playlist) published a behind-the-scenes look at the production featuring numerous quotes from director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe. Their main message: this isn’t your father’s Robin Hood. Translation: no tights, no good-natured log dueling…more “historical truth” and gritty, violent death. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve probably already figured that last part out. In addition to discussing the reinvention of this iconic character and his story, Scott and Crowe talk about the potential for a sequel, the “fucking ridiculous” original concept for the film, and more. Hit the jump for the highlights.
“When the first script came to me, I said I’d do Robin Hood, but I wanted to do a fresh version, where we revitalise every part of the story,” continues Crowe, “and I thought that if you’re going to revitalise Robin Hood, it can be done on the basis that whatever you thought you knew about Robin Hood, it was a previously understandable mistake.”
Both Scott and Crowe wanted to take the character back to his initial outlaw roots, as he was portrayed in the “violent world” of the original ballads. To that end, Robin and his merry men, while heroic, will now be “hard-drinking,” “grizzled” ex-soldiers. According to the article, while they still rebel against the oppressive forces of King John, they’re not the benevolent saviors cinema has come to paint them as. Sure, they rob from the rich, but they tend to be a little less enthusiastic about the whole giving to the poor part…unless they happen to be related to the poor in question.
The film is also said to be very cognizant of the important historical events of the period; the Magna Carta, the constant threat of the French, the economic squalor brought about by the Crusades. But, above all, it’s going to be fun.
“The stories do evolve, and that’s one of the reasons they endure,” agrees Scott, “but while we want to find a true historical world, we want the film to have action, drama and to be entertaining. Robin’s stories were told as simple entertainment, and that was one of the keys to Gladiator: keeping the story simple.”
Crow and Scott also address the bizarre original concept for the film that you may have heard about a while back…you know, the one where Robin Hood was actually the bad guy sheriff.
“When I read that particular script, and no disrespect to the guys who wrote it, but it kind of read like CSI: Sherwood Forest to me,” explains Crowe. “And I just wasn’t into doing that. For a start, if you’re a public servant and the public, through taxes, is paying you to do a job, you’d better be well meaning. So it wasn’t interesting to me in that incarnation.”
“It was f***ing ridiculous,” laughs Scott. “It was terrible, a page-one rewrite. If you’re going to invest in a Robin Hood story, why call it Nottingham? You’d end up spending 80% of the publicity budget explaining why it’s Nottingham and not just Robin Hood. It doesn’t make any sense.”
As mentioned, Scott is very open to the possibility of a series. Evidently Robin Hood is more of an origin story that leaves plenty of room for more exploration in subsequent entries.
“[The first film] is the beginnings of how the man becomes known as Robin the Hood,” explains Scott. “You don’t really get that until the last few minutes. When you realise that ‘Ah, this is who he is’.” Scott smiles. “Let’s say we might presume there’s a sequel…Honestly, I thought why not have the potential for a sequel, particularly if it is a genre that you absolutely love and has never been fully explored? If there were to be a sequel to Robin Hood, you would have a constant enemy throughout, King John, and you would follow his reign of 17 years, and the signing of Magna Carta could be Robin’s final act.”
Given how hard Scott pushed to have this film converted in post, I’d bet that we can look forward to some 3D action if this does in fact turn into a franchise. Lastly, Crowe talks about the shared burden that the he and Scott will carry for the rest of their respective lives.
“It doesn’t matter what we do, everybody always compares it to Gladiator,” Crowe smiles. “We do a little comedy set in the south of France [A Good Year] and half the reviews had references to Gladiator. We do American Gangster and Body of Lies and there’s Gladiator references…”
That must get annoying. So, Mr. Crowe, could you compare this film to Gladiator?
“If Gladiator was a metaphor for death, and possibly vengeance, then this is about the opposite, it’s about life, it’s about birth. All the characters you care about, their lives are changed for the positive by the end. The key thing is that it’s entertainment; it would be very disappointing if we’d made a dour version of Robin Hood.”
As a bonus, here’s the writer of the article’s description of one of the film’s epic action sequences:
To re-create their big-budget world for Robin Hood, Crowe and Scott have set up camp in Bourne Woods, near Farnham, in Surrey (the spot, incidentally, where they unleashed hell upon the Germanic tribes during the opening scenes of their 2000 Roman epic), erecting all kinds of timber dwellings, while the gigantic, battlement-crowned face of a freshly-built French castle glowers in the distance. All around there’s a buzz of activity as muck-caked medieval men rush hither and thither, lugging armfuls of arrows, shields, swords and chinking coats of chain mail. A major battle is about to unfold.
One of the opening scenes sees King Richard I, the Lionheart, justifying his epithet as he returns from the Third Crusade, leading an assault on the aforementioned French castle. Blood flows and bones break as the besiegers breach the gates and the besieged battle back, pouring down a hail of crossbow bolts and torrents of boiling oil.