Robin Hood - Russell Crowe © Universal Pictures
Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) © Universal Pictures

Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe reunites with his blockbuster Gladiator director Ridley Scott for another epic adventure.

It’s a tale that has been told so many times you feel as if you know everything there is to know about Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Little John, Friar Tuck and the Sheriff of Nottingham, but in the hands of director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe the story has a new spin, as the actor explains.

What was your interest in playing Robin Hood?

Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) © Universal Pictures
Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) © Universal Pictures

Robin Hood has always been in back of my mind since I was a child. I was a big fan of the various incarnations I saw when I was growing up. There’s a universal connection that everyone makes to Robin Hood, which is at the core of the story: there might be somebody out there who cares enough to redress the imbalance. There’s an empowerment quality about Robin to which people respond.

I said I’d do Robin Hood, but only if it were a fresh take. It is one of the longest-surviving stories in the English language. That requires due respect. I took the attitude that if you’re going to revitalize Robin Hood, it has to be done on the basis that whatever you thought you knew about the legend was an understandable mistake. It has to be different from what has come before. Take Robin and Little John, for example, who don’t get on when they first meet. When we first meet them, they have a disagreement. But that doesn’t take place on a log over a creek with a staff fight, which has been done to death. What we’ve done is to redefine the times and shift the timeline.

I know Ridley shoots with multiple cameras. Did that bother any of the actors?

Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott © Universal Pictures
Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott © Universal Pictures

I had a conversation with William Hurt [who plays William Marshal] at the end of one day. He was very morose and sitting in his trailer and the Merry Men were all sitting around having a beer together, and I said, ‘Join us.’ He was like, ‘No, I can’t, I just don’t understand what’s going on. I’m out there, I’m doing my thing, but not once did Ridley cover me in a close-up. I don’t understand, isn’t this an important part of the story?’

I was like, ‘Bill, he had five cameras going mate, and he did four takes. Between each take he’s going to change the lens and change the way a particular camera moves. I absolutely guarantee you he’s got more close-ups than you can shake a stick at.’ He said, ‘That’s how he works?’ ‘Yes, that’s how he works. Did he interrupt you? Did he stop you from doing anything? No. When you are not doing what he wants, that’s when he’ll come and talk to you.’

Do you like that process?

Me, I like to live in the world. I spend all the time that I need during a rehearsal situation to have a look at where [the cameras] are.  I go and ask what lens they have on and I’ll do that between each take so I have a pretty good idea what he’s going to get.

I first had that experience prior to working with Ridley with Michael Mann, working with Al Pacino. Michael just decided that he was going to run two cameras on everything, because I like to work in the first three takes, and Al uses the first 30 to warm up! So Michael just decided he was going to get everything and anything that happened.

There’s been a lot of speculation about problems during the filming of this movie, can you address them?

Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) © Universal Pictures
Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) © Universal Pictures

If you look at the two and a half years when we were first given the idea of [Hood] and the last day of shooting, people have tried to pump it up like it was falling apart. The reality is we took a normal, responsible period of time to develop a story into a feature film that was shootable within a confined period of time.

We couldn’t answer the questions [we were being asked] at the time. Are you going to play more than one character? Well, at the central part of Robin Hood one of the things is disguise and deception. So if I take on somebody else’s persona, I can’t answer no to that question, but I can’t fully explain the reality of that. By not being able to answer it fully you then leave this massive ground for interpretation. So that was happening to both me and Ridley, where we were trying to answer the questions as best we could. But people were just running with the answer and creating something completely different out of it, which wasn’t what we said or what we intended. I think you’ve got to take the time period it needs for you to get on top of it, you don’t want to be starting a film not knowing what you want to do.

Once you’ve had a film like Gladiator, once that’s in your background everybody’s going to hold whatever else you do up to that. I don’t think we ever tried to live up to that, but we do apply methodology no matter what is going on. We are going to get up every day and our aim is, before this day is done we are going to have done something special.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.