- 19 February 2009
- By Gerard Wood
Hard on the heels of our recent update on Nottingham, Ridley Scott’s notoriously revisionist take on the legend of Robin Hood, we learn that Scott’s movie may not be quite so revisionist after all. It seems that the script has been undergoing a series of badly needed rewrites since he first became interested in the project, and with each rewrite the revisionist angle has diminished somewhat. Given the rather bizarre changes to the legend originally announced, this can be filed away as good news.
Reading between the lines of Scott’s recent chat with MTV, it seems that the director was more enamoured of the idea of doing a Robin Hood movie than the version of the story pitched to him: way back then the script appeared to have an ugly conservative agenda with a noble Sheriff doing his best to maintain law and order, and Robin a not so virtuous thief up to no good; later it was revealed that Russell Crowe would in fact be playing both the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood, or rather that Crowe's Robin Hood would assume the identity of the Sheriff. Scott has now put the record straight and this last idea has fortunately made its way onto the scrap heap of great ideas that proved to be pretty damn silly in the cold light of day:
“[Crowe as both Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham] was an idea so far back, way back when at the time I had this proposed to me, and I read it and thought, ‘I don't really know what it does for it, but it's alright.’” Scott goes on to explain, "It is better to simply have the evolution of a character called Robin Hood, who will come out of a point in the Crusades which is the end.”
Bye bye (and good riddance!) revisionist take on the legend.
Not only will Crowe not play both the Sheriff and Hood, but the Sheriff won’t in fact have a significant part in the movie at all. “The Sheriff of Nottingham is always a kind of an amusing character in most of the movies, who represents the hierarchy in the story at that point,” Scott told MTV. “The hierarchy and the wealthy always ruled over the under class, and fundamentally that doesn't change, because Robin Hood is actually the person who finally - in terms of the overall classical idea of the film - will help the poor, probably taking from the rich.”
It makes good sense for Scott to do something as radical as axe the Sheriff from the script: the conflict between Robin and the Sheriff is at the heart of the legend and, therefore, to every other retelling of the story and by removing the Sheriff from the scene of the crime, Scott immediately differentiates his movie from others. But perhaps more importantly this will have the effect of broadening the depiction of oppression from an individual basis (the Sheriff) to an institutional basis. After all, Hood is the archetypal rebel with a cause and the people's hero because he stands up to fight against unjust authority - not simply one brutal individual - on behalf of the oppressed majority.
So, instead of an unappealing conservative revision of the legend in which the authority figure is shown to be a fairly decent fellow, what Scott seems to be promising now is a more realistic and historically accurate setting within which his rebellious hero will rise up. Rather than having a simplistic figurehead villain, the villain in Scott's movie will be the very social, political and cultural system that institutionalises oppression and empowers people like the Sheriff. Scott's movie, it seems, will give us the reality of life under an invading power, that is, life for the defeated English under the Norman regime introduced by William the Conqueror in 1066:
“It is from France. It is the French,” Scott explains. “The villain is much bigger in that sense; much more important, and much more dangerous.”
This no doubt explains why the project has seen a change of name from Nottingham to Robin Hood. Although I honestly don't think this particular change will help differentiate Scott’s version from the plethora of others...
Still, news about this film just keeps getting better.
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