Robert the Bruce is one of the most polarizing people in European history with his rise to power as Scotlands King and the war he waged on the English for Scottish independence. While most Americans only know of William Wallace from Braveheart, the story of Robert the Bruce has started to become popular with the help of Hollywood. Angus Macfadyen’s journey to create Robert the Bruce spanned over ten years. Fans of Braveheart will recognize a younger Angus Macfadyen portraying the role of Robert the Bruce. After making the movie Braveheart Angus felt that there was more to tell about Robert’s story and made it a personal goal to make this movie.
I had the opportunity to speak with Lead Actor and Writer Angus Macfadyen about his journey from Braveheart to making Robert the Bruce. Because of the Covid-19 Pandemic the US theatrical release of the Robert the Bruce had to be canceled and instead be released digitally and VOD this Friday April 24th.
Nancy Tapia: Well it’s pretty exciting to see you. First of all, sir, congratulations. I’m a fan.
Angus Macfadyen: Thank you.
Nancy Tapia: What perfect timing to see you again as Robert the Bruce. Not often I would say you get to return to play the same role 25 years later.
Angus Macfadyen: Yeah, it’s a very rare thing and a lot of fun. It’s like going in a cupboard and getting out this box and going in and finding this dusty old pair of slippers, which you’d worn 25 years ago and you slip them on and they just feel great. So you just start walking around in them again.
Nancy Tapia: Well, now that you say that, how was it to go back to the old costumes and the horse riding and the heavy armor?
Angus Macfadyen: I love those movies. I feel like I’ve got a face for medieval movies, like I was born in the wrong century entirely. So yeah, it’s my favorite thing. The language is richer and the ideas are bigger. I hate modern movies where they make me wear a suit or a uniform or something and the language is so sort of natural and boring and dull. I love to make big epic, heroic movies.
Nancy Tapia: So tell me, how did it come about to go back and play Robert? How did all this initiate?
Angus Macfadyen: Well it was sort of me initiating it, I was walking around for several years after the film talking to people saying, “Doesn’t anybody want to see what happened after William Wallace died because Robert the Bruce did actually fight on for a long time and became the King of Scotland. And read Scotland, don’t we want to tell that story?” And apparently not. But I went and sat down anyway and wrote a script in 2006 and of course it took from then, it took another 11 years to actually start shooting with it because it took that long to just get somebody interested who had some money to make the thing.
Nancy Tapia: Well, wow. So this is something you were truly, truly passionate about and yes there was this missing gap where it’s like, “Okay, what happened? How did it happen?” Because going back a little bit with Braveheart that is missing, it’s like, okay, he kind of betrayed the betrayed Wallace, not directly, but did betray him. So it’s like how did the people end up liking him but then not liking him? Your character from Braveheart was quite one of those where it’s unknown if liked or not liked or if really hated.
Angus Macfadyen: Well, he was an aristocrat. He was a land aristocrat, a noble who had lands and basically ambitions to become glory and all of this nonsense, and I’m not particularly interested in the aristocrats or the monarchy or any of that. In fact, I rather hate them, the ones in England, because I just don’t like them. But in the story of the Scottish King it was a very interesting journey of this guy who started like that, failed in his ambition and ended up crawling into a cave where mythologically, he transformed into this hero, came out and had a connection to the earth at last and suddenly became this good King and was able to finally fulfill his destiny.
And part of that, because this whole period is an unwritten period. There is nothing written about it. So I felt I had the poetic license to create this family of very poor Scottish peasants who saved his life and put their lives on the line to save him. And at that moment, he finally puts the face to this land, to the people. Because he was always called, not the King of Scotland, but the King of Scots. He was the king of the people. And so he had never really, probably even met a proper Scot in his life. And finally, he put a face to it and an emotion to it and it’s that which changes everything because you’re no longer a number. For all these politicians, we’re all just numbers. We’re just graphs. We don’t really exist. So that was an important point I thought I was trying to make with this is that humanity is lacking in it all.
Nancy Tapia: So you, you were involved in the writing, you were in the writing part with Eric. But when it comes to directing, how did you guys come about crossing with Richard Gray? And how did you know he was the man for this?
Angus Macfadyen: Well, I met him and it turned out he was a huge fan of Braveheart. And I remember we had sushi in LA and he was telling me about how much he loved Braveheart and he was telling a story of something when he was at school and they watched it and he was crying. And I was like, I think this guy is the guy to do this because he really has an emotional connection to it. And that’s the most important thing is you got to have a feeling and that started to be communicated to your audience. So it was just a feeling really. He’s the guy. He had a film fall through and he had the money in the bank to make this and he had to pull the trigger real fast and we had three months to get ready to start it because we had to shoot in the winter.
Nancy Tapia: Oh wow.
Angus Macfadyen: So it was zero to a hundred kilometers an hour in three months.
Nancy Tapia: That’s amazing.
Angus Macfadyen: We went from where nothing was happening to suddenly we were actually making the film.
Nancy Tapia: That’s amazing. And he did mention you guys were filming in parts of it in Montana.
Angus: Yeah. That’s where the executive producer had land and that’s where we were able to build the church and the village and the farm and use a lot of the land around there to shoot it. And then we went to Scotland for 10 days and we shot there. A lot of traveling stuff we did in Scotland and some battle sequences.
Nancy Tapia: What scene was your most enjoyable filming Robert the Bruce?
Angus Macfadyen: I loved all of the scenes with the family. Working with the kids… Those two kids, they’re LA born and bred and their accents were impeccable. They were such pros, those guys. They really do it for love. And so all of those scenes were fantastic to shoot and that’s the heart of the story for me are all those scenes with the family and the children and how they are coping with the horrors of war and the consequences of their fathers all having died in these wars. The movie’s about consequences. It’s not about glorifying violence, it’s about the consequences of it. So I really wanted it to be a bit of an anti war movie.
Nancy Tapia: Yeah. Since this was a bit of your project as a writer, did you have involvement in the casting?
Angus Macfadyen:: Yeah. Oh yeah. Completely.
Nancy Tapia: So how did you come about with for example, for the kids? How did you know and finding the right-
Angus Macfadyen: We saw a few people but we came across these… Because the brother and sister in that film, the two younger ones are actually a brother and a sister. And so that we just thought was a really good thing because they didn’t have to build that relationship. It was already there. But also they were just so fantastic. They really jumped off the page. So it wasn’t really much decision making. Usually people walk in and it’s like, it’s a decision it’s made for you.
Nancy Tapia: And would you mind me asking, going back to Braveheart, what scene was your most memorable one?
Angus Macfadyen: Oh my God. My favorite scene, it makes me weep every time I watch it, is the scene where the little girl gives William Wallace the little boy, the thistle at the father’s grave. Even talking about it chokes me up. And so I really wanted to pay a little bit of homage to Braveheart. And so that’s why I cast that little girl now a 30 year old woman and she played the queen in Robert the Bruce.
Nancy Tapia: Oh, the same gal?
Angus Macfadyen: Yeah, she’s a now grown woman. Yeah, it’s 25 years later and so she played my queen in it.
Nancy Tapia: Oh, okay. Well thank you. I missed that. I actually re-watched Braveheart after watching Robert the Bruce. I just had to. It’s one of those. I’m sure you’re going to have many other people doing the same thing after watching Robert the Bruce. Just going back and refreshing that history and the momentum, that love for it because Braveheart’s a classic.
Also See: Robert The Bruce: Interview With Director Richard Gray On Telling A Story Not Many People Really Know
Nancy Tapia: Also, I understand that it’s also the timing that coincides with this 700th anniversary of the declaration, right?
Angus Macfadyen: Yeah. It’s sort of a coincidence, I suppose. Some people say that there is no such thing as coincidence, it just happened to be. I was pretty amazed. It wasn’t planned, that’s for sure. It just happened that way. But I tried to make this film in 2006 so obviously I had to wait until 2020 to have it come out. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence or if I was meant to wait until now for the film to come out because now it feels like it has so much more symbolic importance than if it had just come out in 2006.
Nancy Tapia: That’s amazing. Well congratulations for sure. Definitely. Perfect timing. Especially now in this situation we’re at, we really need new content and what better than this and take us back also to 25 years where we were at in time.
Angus Macfadyen: Yeah. The good old days.
Nancy Tapia: Yes. Although we do get to miss watching it on the big screen, but you know what? We will value and appreciate it just as much.
Angus Macfadyen: Well, what’s amazing is people that have huge screens in their houses now.
Nancy Tapia: Good point.
Angus Macfadyen: When I was a kid, I would go to the cinema and often in cinemas, which I swear to God the screens were the same size as the ones in people’s houses right now. With sounds and surround and all of that. It’s not that much different.
Nancy Tapia: Right, right. Is there something that you by any chance maybe working on you can share about?
Angus Macfadyen: Oh well yeah, There’s another film which has just come out called Henry the Fourth in which I played Falstaff. That’s a Shakespearian film. And I also wrote and directed Macbeth Unhinged, which is just finishing post production. And I want to get it out there this year. It’s a film noire with a modern day version of Macbeth. And so those are my two other films. Both Shakespeare.
Nancy Tapia: That’s brilliant. Going back to the classics.
Angus Macfadyen: Yeah.
Nancy Tapia: I think we nowadays need… That’s the kind of content we need. We need to stimulate our mind and go back to the classics and go back and be curious and get a little educated.
Angus Macfadyen: Yeah. Just looking at how things never really change. They just seem to repeat themselves.
Nancy Tapia: Right. Well thank you so much Angus. Really appreciate it. Congratulations on this project and the ones coming up. If lucky, fingers crossed, I get to talk to you about those projects too.
Angus Macfadyen: Yeah. Absolutely.
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