Scottish director David Mackenzie ruffled a few feathers this year with the festival’s opening film, a violent period drama that many considered to be a companion piece to Mel Gibson’s 1995 Oscar-winning drama Braveheart.
“The story’s about Robert Bruce,” explained Mackenzie when he brought several members of his huge cast to the Deadline studio. “He’s a man who was a founding father of Scotland, 700 years ago. It covers a certain period in his history, where he goes from being an aristocratic Lord who surrendered to King Edward of England—who’s basically subsumed the whole [of Scotland] into his country—and he goes on a journey to where he finds himself really unable to stick with the surrender that he’s agreed to, and he starts to kick back.”
Chris Pine, who starred in Mackenzie’s last film, the Oscar-nominated thriller Hell or High Water, explained what attracted him to playing the part of Robert The Bruce. “I wanted to work with David again,” he said, “so I was immediately interested. From then, it was a matter of crafting a character from a historical figure, the information on whom was pretty oblique in terms of his driving passions and why he did what he did when he did it. He is known for having kissed the ring, so to speak, of King Edward. But why did he do it? Was he plotting? Was he being Machiavellian? Was he a coward? All of these things, all of these questions, are really, really intriguing to me, and I was [also] super-excited to make something on this big of a scale.”
And the scale is immense, climaxing in the Battle of Loudon Hill in 1307, which saw thousands of English soldiers routed by hundreds of Scots. The preparation for such muddy and violent sequences was, said Pine’s co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as hard as you might imagine. “It was relentless,” he said. “It was [like] bootcamp: two weeks of stunt training, learning to do the fight sequences. And then we’d be out in the wilderness, or in a loch and freezing cold rivers with chain mail on top. Or on a horse, or throwing someone off a horse, and you’d have to improvise a lot on the day because the environments would change. But that’s what Mckenzie does great—he creates such an authentic environment for us to play in, and it feels extremely natural.”
Hear more from the Outlaw King team in the video above.