Scotland 1306, Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen) crowns himself King and takes the ambition of Scotland’s freedom as his own. But he cannot overcome England’s power: defeated again and again, his army is scattered and Scotland’s nobility abandons him. Hunted, with a price on his head, he finds himself alone and wounded. The cause of freedom seems lost once more.
Hidden secretly in a secluded croft of a clan pledged to England, and close to death Robert is nursed back to life by a young widow (Anna Hutchison) and her orphaned children. His determination to do what is right, regardless of the cost, reinvigorates his passion to rise again. But it’s not revenge he desires. It’s freedom. Now.
Almost 25 years after Braveheart, Scottish actor Angus Macfadyen returns to the role of ROBERT THE BRUCE and continues where the classic BRAVEHEART with Mel Gibson once ended.
But whoever’s expecting a sequel, might be disappointed, because for ROBERT THE BRUCE Macfadyen, who has also written the script, choses a completely different approach. He renounced large, monumental battles, rather than telling the story through the eyes of the people, in this case, a small widowed family, who cares for their fallen king, although they have already lost their husband and father in the war. But it’s precisely this approach to the Scottish national hero that makes ROBERT THE BRUCE so special and benevolently sets it apart from all the other historical dramas that always aim to be even bigger, even more epic and even more powerful.
For more than thirteen years Macfadyen had worked on the story, which was initially planned to be big and epic. But the difficulty of getting such a monumental film financed has always been a problem. As a result, the storyline changed, but it was not until he met with Anna Hutchison, with whom he shot the Game of Thrones parody PURGE OF KINGDOMS, until the ball was back in the game. Hutchison sent the script to Australian director Richard Gray, who just had scheduled shoot in Montana, USA falling apart. Gray was impressed by the script and so they decided to shoot it in Montana instead of Scotland. Within four months erveything was prepped and they began shooting. Fortunately, Montana does not look much different from Scotland, so even locals should find it hard to distinguish the Montana shots from the Scottish ones.
Even the US actors, first and foremost Zach McGowan (known from SHAMELESS, THE 100, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF SHIELD or BLACK SAILS) were trying their best to train a Scottish accent. How well they really succeeded may the Scots decide, for me as a German it sounded well enough.
Also very impressive is the set design of the film, for which Zach DePolo and April Hopkins are responsible, both of which have a considerable list of works over the last five years. All the sets in the movie, such as the family’s cabin or even the church from the first sequence of the film, were built by both of them with their own hands at absolute minus temperatures in the snow-covered Montana.
ROBERT THE BRUCE might not be the Braveheart sequel that some may be expecting, but with its particular approach, it’s an a wonderful insight into Scottish history. And there could be no better time for a story about a nations’s urge for freedom, especially in these turbulent Brexit times.
At the 73. Edinburgh International Film Festival I had the chance to talk to the director Richard Gray, the main actor and writer Angus Macfadyen and the actor Zach McGowan about the film:
Robert the Bruce (USA / UK 2019)
Angus Macfadyen, Eric Belgau
Angus Macfadyen, Daniel Portman, Anna Hutchinson, Jared Harris, Patrick Fugit, Zach McGowan, Gabriel Bateman, Talitha Eliana Bateman, Shane Coffey, Emma Kenney