Fresh take on folk tale for millennials
BEFORE cinema-goers see him as pop music icon Elton John, Taron Edgerton takes on another, much older legend.
The rising British talent, best known for his roles in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Eddie The Eagle, adds another string to his bow as the latest incarnation of medieval outlaw Robin Hood.
He stars opposite Jamie Foxx in director Otto Bathurst's modern retelling of the hero of English folklore who stole from the rich to give to the poor.
"There are some great Robin Hood films, but what was very different about this one was the very, very clear intention right from the beginning to make a Robin Hood story that was relevant to the 21st Century,” Bathurst says. "This is a story that's been told for 500 or 600 years, and there's a reason this legend has been told for so long. This guy was a revolutionary, a sword of truth, a guy despite whatever corruption or evil or repression was going on at the time was prepared to stand up and challenge it and say no. That's a really inspiring story no matter when it's told.
"Most of the stories we see today are (about) superheroes and whilst they're fun you watch them, as an audience it doesn't empower or inspire you in any way. It doesn't say to you as an audience 'you can do this too'. I thought the idea of an every-man hero was really interesting.”
That vision influenced every decision made by the BAFTA Award-winning director, best known for his work on the TV series Peaky Blinders and Black Mirror, from the dark, gritty set design to casting choices including Aussies Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck and Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham.
"The last thing I wanted to do with Tuck was to have that swelling, bald idiot, which is how Tuck is normally presented,” he says. "For me Tuck is a fascinating and deeply wise and religious man, who has a really deep faith but is challenged by the organi- sation that runs his faith. Of course there was a delicious nuance to the fact that the actor who was going to play Tuck had written and sung these songs (criticising the Pope and Cardinal Pell). Tim is really brilliant, intelligent, fascinating and deeply committed.
"And there has been some great moustache twirling in the past with the Sheriff, but we didn't want to go that way. We wanted to create a more modern politician. I've loved and admired Ben ever since I'd seen Animal Kingdom. He has some pretty dark, cool moments.”
Edgerton developed some impressive archery skills for the film with the help of Danish modern archer Lars Andersen.
"I didn't want the film to feel like a big VFX blockbuster,” Bathurst says. "I wanted to shoot as much as possible in camera, which we did. That required Taron to get incredibly skilled at archery and we enlisted the help of Lars, who has reinvented this historically accurate speed archery. We built this notion of the bow and arrow being a gun and Taron can fire arrows that quickly. None of the archery stuff with Taron is a stuntman.”
Bathurst admits his version of Robin Hood won't be to everyone's taste.
"Anybody who goes along to the movie expecting to see a traditional Robin Hood will be sorely disappointed,” he says.
"There will be people who find the costume and production design tough to swallow, but our intentions were never ever to make an historically accurate movie.
"We wanted to create a look that really wakes the audience up and tells them this is not a fairytale.”
Robin Hood opens in cinemas on Thursday.
STARS: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben
Mendelsohn, Tim Minchin, Jamie Dornan, Eve Hewson.
DIRECTOR: Otto Bathurst
REVIEWER'S LAST WORD: This is Robin Hood for millennials, with director Otto Bathurst proving the classic tale has plenty of parallels to today's world.