Farr takes us behind-the-scenes, giving us a glimpse into the making of the film...
The director’s vision...
“David had a very confident and informed position as to where the look of the film was to go—as near to reality of medieval life as possible.”
The importance of palette...
“We lost the super bright colors that dominated the textbooks, all the emerald greens, ruby reds and intense blues. Don, our production designer, and Jane, the costume designer, collaborated with this, so the overall look was a tonal delight.
I de-saturated all the reference before adorning the walls of the set dec department office. It was much kinder to the eye and gave us a natural look, using the Scottish landscape as our palette. This was my bible.
The flags, banners and horse dressing always have a certain style on medieval films...the brilliant colors are nearly always prominent. I was determined to bring them in line, too. We used all the right heraldic crests for the families but, again, pulled the colors out. Our paint department and dying department were a vital link with keeping the style we wanted.”
Locations and weather!
Chris Pine, who plays Robert the Bruce
, professes, “This was by far the most grueling shoot I have ever done, not merely from the action scenes but also from the remote locations and constantly being on the move to the next place. The weather changes within seconds from sun to rain, wind and mud – we met Mother Nature in all her shades and it was stunning
Matt Jones, the film’s Location Manager points out, “We chose many locations that had never had film crews there before and though these remote places cinematically look incredible they were often logistically challenging
Farr laughs, “Yes, the locations were far and wide and not always easily accessible. In fact, often not! We spent 5 months in Scotland, through the Scottish summer, autumn and into the winter. We experienced every type of weather, from the strong warmth of the sun, through the wet, thick and sticky mud and rain, to the whipping bitter wind and snow.
The castles weren’t much more cheerful, mostly built on bleak promontories, or the top of rough peaks, hewn from the local granite, substantial, remote and standing proud.
We had many repeat interiors & exteriors: markets, villages, castle grounds, army camps, prisons, tents...It took an extensive amount of work and planning trying to differentiate between them!”
Detail upon detail...
“Just the quantity of dressing we needed was huge. Truck after truck arrived from the London prop houses. As we mentioned, the sheer logistics of moving the stuff around Scotland was a nightmare...even more than you would imagine!
We pretty much recycled everything available to us, there wasn’t a medieval trunk that hadn’t been used for some character’s luggage and then as furnishing, or a wrought iron candlestick left unused!
The carts and carriages were block-booked for the whole period of filming, as the cost of transport would have been astronomical...therefore giving ourselves another job: decorating and upholstering them, scheduling their transport and loads, and making sure the horse master had the right animals available to pull them.
The large banquets were beautifully dressed by a local chef. He set up his kitchen/workshop near the office. Although, not much cooking was done there—it was mostly glue guns, painting and sculpting his creations, afterwards fixing them to the platters, and assuring the decorations were historically correct...a shame we didn’t see more of them.
In particular, the filming of the Black Knights’
party was enormous.
We used the covered courtyard of Glasgow University, which became a howling wind tunnel. 30 long banquet tables with benches, 25 horses, 150 actors, live swans, dogs, burning flambeaus...all shot throughout the night.
Most of the sets involved large numbers of actors, dancing, singing, eating and drinking, or on horses with lots of livestock...large camps with 50 or so tents...all coming together to help with the look of this hopefully “authentic” medieval world that David wanted to portray.”
Mackenzie points out that despite all the battles depicted and harsh realities thereon,
“I think it is very easy to look upon medieval life as a horrible time. In fact, it really was very cultured, there was good wine, good food and with people living in such large communities with each other – good fun times filled with music and dance.