February 1st, 2019 by Karen Burg

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Methven, Scotland, in the year 1306... The turbulent story of Robert the Bruce’s extraordinary journey from defeated noble to murderer to king to outlaw to becoming fully recognized as King of Scotland... Here with his wife Elizabeth de Burgh on the eve of a major battle... Chris Pine, Florence Pugh. Photo by David Eustace © 2018 Netflix

Set Decorator
Judy Farr SDSA

Production Designer
Don Burt


Scotland early 14th century...
Robert the Bruce's [Chris Pine] life is transformed over the course of an extraordinary historic year as he battles to become the King of Scotland. The journey is a bloody rollercoaster and often seemingly impossible as the Outlaw King fights to regain control with his small group of supporters against the might of King Edward I of England’s army.  
Director David Mackenzie, fresh from the modern Western HELL OR HIGH WATER, stepped in a different direction and followed a long held dream of exploring Scotland’s medieval history, aspiring to create a film of “elemental power and poetic realism...” 

Thus, he took on the depths of character and place, Scotland’s national hero, Robert the Bruce, “who was almost too dangerous to touch - a real hero for sure, but a complex one...”

“It was a pivotal time in Scotland’s tempestuous history and effectively the existence of the country was at stake. In removing the crown and all Scottish regalia upon the submission of Scotland’s feudal lords at the siege of Stirling in 1304, Edward [King of England] was basically trying to subsume Scotland into England. William Wallace and his armies tried to fight this and eventually failed...It was only the Scottish Church, who were using every influence they had to try to prevent their absorption into England’s church, and Robert’s dawning realization that Edward had played his father and family with false promises that the crown would be conferred on them once things settled down that prevented this totality. Unlike Wallace, Robert eventually prevailed through both war and politics, and his struggle led to Scotland’s recognition again as an independent kingdom...both by the English king and, importantly, the Pope. But it was not without great cost and sacrifice to himself and his supporters, against overwhelming odds.”

“What I told everyone was that I wanted us to make an epic realist anti-fantasy film. We were interested in exploring the realities of what life must have been like for our characters back then and in doing so trying to demythologize what we could.”

To ensure the realism, Mackenzie relied on Production Designer Don Burt and Set Decorator Judy Farr SDSA International, Costume Designer Jane Petrie, and their teams to bring medieval life to fore in a vast number of locations....

OUTLAW KING shot for 65 days, spanning 45 different locations all over Scotland
The film’s settings also included some of Scotland’s most iconic historical sites such as
·       Linlithgow Palace
·       Craigmillar Castle
·       Tullibardine Chapel
·       Borthwick Castle
·       Doune Castle
·       Blackness Castle
·       ...plus University of Glasgow and Dunfermline Abbey standing in for Westminster/London

One of the trickier assignments for Burt and Farr’s teams was the re-creation of the Scottish nobles’ castles, many of which are now ruined. So bringing them back to life, including the living villages that would have surrounded them, the crafts and works that would have supported them and the heraldry that would have individualized them, was a major team effort.

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.

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Methven, Scotland, 1306... Battlefield camp... One of many meadows and hillsides filled with tents and accoutrement... Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Methven, Scotland, 1306... Battlefield camp... The realities of camp life, not all spots are level! Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Castle surround market... Villages and markets would spring up just outside the castles, sometimes within the protective walls, sometimes just outside... Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Market... Set Decorator Judy Farr SDSA International and her teams would create individual stalls for each market, accurate to the time and place... Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Market... Here the cheesemonger – note the cheesecloths hanging, reading to wrap a slab or a wheel... Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Market... A bit blurry, but it gives a perspective of the size of this particular market set, through which the camera can track a long action piece... Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Muck... There was a lot of reality offered up! Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Kildrummy Castle or Tain sanctuary... Director David Mackenzie says, “...Elizabeth is tender, giving the story heart, but she is also the strong inspiration that drives Robert to greater things...” Florence Pugh. Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Outbuildings... Kitchen outbuildings – much food prep is done outside when weather permits... Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Cottage table... Part of daily life... Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Work area... Laundry is hung to dry near the stone wall because the heat of the sun will radiate from it... Photo ©2018 Netflix

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Kailyard... Kitchen supplies... Photo ©2018 Netflix