Interview with Angus Macfadyen
Coming this Friday to VOD and Digital Platforms from director Richard Gray and Screen Media is the story of a man we have come to know as ROBERT THE BRUCE.
The film ROBERT THE BRUCE is one that I had always hoped would happen. In 1985, actor Angus Macfadyen had the emotional task of portraying Robert the Bruce in the film BRAVEHEART. This is a character filled with anguish, emotions and wanting to be the king Scotland needed. Being caught up in the games of his father and the nobles, Robert the Bruce watched a man he believed in – fall.
ROBERT THE BRUCE picks up after the king is full of self-doubt (much like his younger self) after so many military losses. It is 1306 and seeing the loss his army almost in pieces, the nobility leaving the fields and England’s King Edward sends out bounty hunters to find him, Robert the Bruce sets out on his own.
After being injured by an attack, he is discovered by children playing in the field and it is with their mother that takes care of his wounds. Finally mending, Robert the Bruce discovers that this family’s father/husband had fought alongside the king.
There are still part of the clan around this family that support England and would see Robert the Bruce captured but they aren’t going to let it happen. Spending time with a family dedicated to Robert the Bruce, he discovers a newfound life and vision into the heart of this king.
I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with ROBERT THE BRUCE himself, Angus Macfadyen. It is no secret that not only do I love the stories of history but find myself even happier when I can see them portrayed by consummate actors – Macfadyen falls into that category.
Although we are all inside and redefining entertainment, ROBERT THE BRUCE is a film that needs to be seen and Macfadyen is the reason.
Jeri: Lets jump right in if that’s alright. I know you have probably been asked this a lot but what made you decide to jump back into your own iconic role in BRAVEHEART?
Angus: To be honest when the film finished, I walked around for years wondering what happened next? What about the follow up? This guy just lost and lost and became an utter failure and finally he became the man he was meant to become. It’s like this ghost I had walking around behind me. The ghost of Robert the Bruce just wouldn’t let me go. I don’t feel like I really had any choice.
Jeri: When did you decide ‘let’s do this!’?
Angus: When I decided to do it was in 2006. I basically walked around for years, spoke about it and nobody wanted to do it. I had a friend [Eric Belgau] who was also a writer and we were sitting around talking about this. Eventually we were ready after several years and we sat down, just the two of us, and punched out our first draft of the movie. Over the course of four years we shrunk it down to the core which is what the film is now. It is the story of family because we at first had a sweeping historical epic. In 2010 we finally had a script but even after that it took another seven years to make the film.
Jeri: What did you do as far as research?
Angus: Whatever I could find, and I ordered every book I could find. Historically speaking I wanted to know what was going on. It is a fascinating time and there was a lot of tumult. The French King was going after the Knights Templar, that was a huge thing. He was roasting them alive in the public square in the Notre Dame cathedral followed by a huge seven-year plague. There was so much happening at that time, so it was hard to pick and choose what to write about. I focused in on the family aspect.
Jeri: I know you said it was like having a ghost of your back. Were you into history long before you took the role of Robert the Bruce?
Angus: Yes, I have always been fascinated by history. I love doing roles of real characters because there is such a wealth of information about them. I love to play people who were alive, and you can go study the period, find books about them, and get inside their heads a bit. There is quite a lot of stuff out there to discover about a character.
Jeri: The one thing that I noticed about your 1985 Robert the Bruce, you managed to recapture the same painful expressions and it is almost like you didn’t skip a beat. I recognized those expressions of pain, confusion and trying to figure out where life had taken Robert the Bruce since his time with William Wallace. Watching the film ROBERT THE BRUCE, I was just taken in by your expressions and emotions because they were so beautifully matched.
Angus: Wow, thank you. That is really nice. I did not pay too much attention to what I was going to do because I had so much more on my plate. I was producing the film as well and casting, there was so much going on. I realized the day before we started filming that ‘oh, I actually have to play this role tomorrow!’. I had to remember the accent, the voice and so I thought I will go to set and just do it. It is like going to a cupboard and finding a box with an old pair of slippers in it. You put them on, and they are nice and warm and comfy and you think ‘ahhhhh!’ and they feel great. It was like that; it was something very comfortable.
Jeri: Well, you did it beautifully and seamlessly.
Angus: That’s so wonderful, thank you.
Jeri: You mentioned casting and producing which is an amazing feat considering you are also acting in the film as its title character. How did you go about choosing the cast?
Angus: The director and I sat together watching tapes and auditions. The accent was very important so I had to make sure that who ever was going to do it had a good ear and that they could pick up the accent. A Scottish accent is not very easy to do.
Jeri: The children, what amazing kids.
Angus: I know, both L.A. kids born and raised. They are remarkable. The two younger kids are brother and sister (Gabriel and Talitha Bateman). I think this is the first time they worked together actually, and it actually paid off. The relationship showed on screen. They were so enthusiastic and just wanted to go. Even when there were blizzards and we all wanted to go home, they said “no, we want to work, let’s go!”.
Jeri: Oh, the energy of the young.
Angus: Yes, they just wanted to work, and they were pros.
Jeri: It really does show. Tell me about the location of the film?
Angus: The executive producer lives on the land where we shot. We built the farm out of real rock and those things will be standing for 100 years after this. We basically shot all around on his land for eight weeks and then headed to Scotland to get that unique look.
Jeri: From the time you first played Robert the Bruce until deciding to find out more about him till now, this has been a serious journey for you.
Angus: It kind of took me twice as long to make the film about Robert the Bruce as it took him to actually get Scottish independence. It only took him seven years; it’s taken me 14 years to tell the story and make the movie of it.
Jeri: So, do you feel now that maybe the ghost is not following you anymore?
Angus: No because I have the next story written from the ending of this film to Robert the Bruce actually becoming the King and declaring independence with the Declaration of Arbroath. If this film does well then, I hope to raise the funds to finish it off, the third and final chapter and then I will be okay. I hope to finish it sooner rather than later because I’ll be too old.
Jeri: I am actually very excited about this. That’s amazing! Now everyone gets to be happy. There is something about your character, you’re right because at the end of BRAVEHEART you see that there is something more in this man who would be king. The change that takes place or call it removing the obstacles to being himself and if you don’t know the history, you are providing it. It’s so cool that you are doing a third!
Angus: Yes, I have it ready to go.
Jeri: Will you have the same team working with you?
Angus: I don’t know yet, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Its definetly a bigger film because there is going to have to be some big battle because it’s the final battle. It’s going to be a larger budget, but we shall see.
Jeri: How do you feel about doing a big battle scene again?
Angus: I’m not a big fan of battle scenes. I sort of grin and bear it and get through it. I prefer scenes where people talk.
Jeri: You don’t like sharp objects being hurled at your person.
Angus: Quite frankly the scenes are boring. It’s all about the editing but you have to show up for the scenes to do it and the stunt men are there anyway.
Jeri: You have to swing a sword once or twice to make us all happy.
Angus: Yea, I’ll try to do that.
Jeri: (we are both laughing) We aren’t going to let you get away with not doing it, sorry. Are you doing anything in between all of this and quarantine?
Angus: I have a film that just came out called HENRY THE IV which is a Shakespearean film set in America, it’s a modern day version where I play Falstaff. I directed/adapted Macbeth Unhinged which is a modern version as well. It is just being wrapped up and the score is being written and I hope it will be released this year.
Jeri: You are not just quarantining in quiet?
Angus: This is all the stuff that has just been done and now I’m climbing the walls.
Jeri: If you could manage to do all that maybe you can do something else creative while you are waiting this out.
Angus: With my home movie camera maybe.
Jeri: Everyone is being creative.
Angus: Maybe make a movie with my iPhone. Wait, I can’t go out of my house.
Jeri: Make a movie through the window about being trapped inside the house.
Angus: I could do that. Or get a drone and shoot things outside the house.
Jeri: See, your brain is already clicking off ideas, run with it. When I told people I would be speaking with you today, one thing they wanted to say is that they loved the characters you have chosen to play through your career but wanted to know if you’d ever do a sci-fi movie. Would you do it?
Angus: Of course, I happen to love sci-fi really.
Jeri: Oh, do you?
Angus: Yes, anything besides the present I’d do. I’ll do the movies set in the past and in fact I just did a movie about the future, it’s called 3022 (directed by John Suits) and it’s a movie set in space. I just finished it last year. It is about the end of the world so there you go! Something to cheer everyone up!
Jeri: You know, during this time the best movies to watch are disaster movies, makes you feel a lot better about life.
Angus: Yes, yes, you can say ‘see at least it isn’t THAT bad!’
Jeri: I want to thank you so much for speaking with me today about the film. It is brilliant and now I’m even more excited to see how you finish out the story of Robert the Bruce.
Angus: Thank you, I really do hope to get it made and want ROBERT THE BRUCE to do really well.
Jeri: Enjoy your quarantine time and want to see that iPhone movie!
Cast also includes Jared Harris as John Comyn, Anna Hutchison as Morag, Gabriel Bateman as Scot, Talitha Bateman as Iver, Emma Kenney as Briana, Melora Walters as Ylfa, Kevin McNally as Sean, Brandon Lessard as Carney, Daniel Portman as Angus McDonald, Diarmaid Murtagh as James Doublas, Shane Coffey as Finley, Zach McGowan as Brandubh, and Patrick Fugit as Will.
Screen Media is an international distributor of television series and films, licensing content through theatrical, home video, pay-per-view, free, cable and pay television, and subscription and advertising video-on-demand platforms. The company is continually looking to add films and television series to its content library. For more please visit www.screenmedia.com.
The release of ROBERT THE BRUCE also happens to coincide with the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath. The film was also nominated by the Edinburgh Film Festival for an Audience Award.
ROBERT THE BRUCE is a film about the continual journey of a man still finding his rightful place in Scotland. Instead of battles, ROBERT THE BRUCE takes us deeper inside what this character must find for himself if there is ever to be a free Scotland. I believe that is what I felt most drawn to. Beaten and, without question, broken, it is time for Robert to take a step back and come to terms with what has happened in his life.
Even when it becomes clear that the family who saves him is also divided about their house guest, like Robert, the truth needs to be aired on both sides. The family admitting to their pain and anger and Robert admitting that he has lost himself.
What happens to both sides is that they clear the air, talk out their fears and find their center again. Robert is taught by this small family to accept who you are, straighten your crown and get back to the business at hand – Scotland.
There is not a moment of the film I did not adore. The story takes its time to allow the characters to develop making each performance extremely special. Macfayden sharing scenes with the kids is something to behold as it is the kids who have powerful feelings that affect the character of Robert deeply. They are strong and determined to stand by the side of the king – just as their father did.
Watching this story of ROBERT THE BRUCE, it is only right that we all be patient for Macfayden to bring the crescendo to the life of this unique man who would be king. Experience ROBERT THE BRUCE!
In the end – he fought for freedom to defy an empire!