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Russell Crowe Talks about becoming a legend

Robin Hood
16 September 2010

Oscar® winner Russell Crowe stars as the legendary figure known by generations as “Robin Hood,” whose exploits have endured in popular mythology and ignited the imagination of those who share his spirit of adventure and righteousness. In 13th century England, Robin and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power. And whether thief or hero, one man from humble beginnings will become an eternal symbol of freedom for his people.
Robin Hood chronicles the life of an expert archer, previously interested only in self-preservation, from his service in King Richard’s army against the French. Upon Richard’s death, Robin travels to Nottingham, a town suffering from the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation, where he falls for the spirited widow Lady Marion (Oscar® winner Cate Blanchett), a woman skeptical of the identity and motivations of this crusader from the forest. Hoping to earn the hand of Maid Marion and salvage the village, Robin assembles a gang whose lethal mercenary skills are matched only by its appetite for life. Together, they begin preying on the indulgent upper class to correct injustices under the sheriff.
With their country weakened from decades of war, embattled from the ineffective rule of the new king and vulnerable to insurgencies from within and threats from afar, Robin and his men heed a call to ever greater adventure. This unlikeliest of heroes and his allies set off to protect their country from slipping into bloody civil war and return glory to England once more.

Here we speak to Russell Crowe about taking on the legend of Robin Hood, his experiences and working with the legend that is Ridley Scott again.



There was a very intimate feeling in the film – like you were really there. Was that something to do with the way Ridley made the film?

Ridley shoots in such a way that he doesn’t impact the actors. He matrixes a room or a field and he uses multiple cameras – everybody is playing at the same time. He doesn’t shoot one half then turn around and shoot the other half. He tries to shoot the world as it exists which means you get great responses. One of the things Ridley has learnt over time is if you cast the right way, you want to have both sides of the conversation at every take.

Oscar was saying there is even room to ad lib a bit.

Ridley is all about great ideas.  There were things in the earlier drafts that were very attractive to Oscar Issac and he came to me and talked about them. I told him that Ridley is not going to stop you from doing something great. Very early on when we were doing Gladiator together – our first movie – we didn’t know each other and it was an odd situation because he is very strong minded and we were working with a raft of producers and ultimately Steven Spielberg. It was a very pressurised situation, but he said to me one day that if I tell him about a good idea in post production I’m going to hate him forever. “If something comes to mind, you have to tell me. I want to hear them,” we have worked on that basis ever since. If something is on my mind for any particular thing I will bring it to him. That’s what I told Oscar, that he is that rare beast who actually loves actors. He is in awe of the bravery of actors. If you are prepared to go to a certain place on his behalf than you will only get appreciation from Ridley.

The Robin Hood story has been told many times – the idea of doing an original story – was not just because it was different but more interesting to you as an actor because you could show how he developed?

There are a lot of questions in pretty much every cinematic Robin Hood that never get answered. The filmmakers take it for granted that you know a certain amount about the story and they go from there.  We weren’t really interested in what people think they know about Robin Hood.  We wanted to wipe the slate clean and start again.  Because really once Mel Brooks has been there and done Men in Tights it’s time to take a fresh look at it. Just reading books and sifting through the history and going on this journey of discovery that we did. There were certain things attached to Robin Hood that didn’t make any sense. King Richard the Lionheart rides in at the end of the day and saves the situation. Richard spent six months of his reign of ten years in England but only spoke French and was elevated to a hero status because he was an assassin on behalf of the Pope and his Crusades. In reality, he had a very negative attitude and tried to sell the city of London at one point. So why is he remembered so fondly and his brother who took over from him remembered so negatively? When you realise his brother invented pay as your earn taxation – that’s a pretty good reason. For us, the adventure was to find that place where a rebel leader would rise in England, apply pressure to the monarch, for whatever reasons and what his central motivation was.



You were instrumental in a lot of the casting – all the Merry Men you knew well before the film?

My core thing is that I’ve worked with them and I know who they are. I’ve been in pressurised situations with them and I know how they cope. That was my attitude when I talked to Ridley. You can throw all the A list names at me that you want but I’m not interested, I’m interested in a team. I’m interested in guys who will take on a physical challenge and spend whatever time is required. I also need all the Merry Men to have a musical background and Ridley is like ‘Why?’ My thing was if you spend time in the army as these men do, if you are on this battlefield of brutality, then you have to know how to celebrate. If you have made it through that day without an arrow through a part of your body dipped in horse urine – because it poisons your blood and you die – or cleaved in two by some knight in armour on horseback. If you get to the end of the day then you have to know how to celebrate and then get ready to do it again the next day. It was very important to have the flexibility of having someone play. Allan A’Dayle knew how to play the lute so you didn’t have some actor there pretending. You had to have that immediacy. The lute is the troubadour in the situation – he’s significantly more accurate. He is the guy who is going to tell the story of their lives, so you needed someone who could do that. The balance of the athleticism and the emotional availability is what I wanted in the Merry Men.

This is a film everyone can watch – even kids because the violence is not too extreme – was that deliberate?

Deliberate on Ridley’s behalf and something we discussed. It would be very easy for him to revisit the same territory as Gladiator and severe heads and limbs here and there, but ultimately there is such a strong moral core to this story that you want kids to be able to see it. I was happy to take my two boys and they are only aged six and three and a half because at the end of the day, even though it’s a big epic story, it’s what’s actually being said about altruism and about working on behalf of other people. These are very important things and these are great seeds to put in the hearts of kids.



Russell Crowe Profile | Robin Hood Film Page

Robin Hood is released in on DVD and Blu-ray on 20th September 2010.