Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

The future of film

The rain is coming down in buckets. And the temperature is dropping. It can only mean one thing. Spring has arrived in Ireland. Or summer. Or autumn. Or winter. But in this case, it is spring. And that means that it is already time to start getting excited about the Festival de Cannes. Not just because a lot of new movies will be shown but because it is in the south of France and not in Ireland.

Just this past Sunday, it was reported that the opening film of the festival would be Ridley Scott’s (no relation) Robin Hood. The May 12 screening will be the movie’s world premiere, two days ahead of its worldwide release.

Even more interesting, however, is this article which appeared on today’s The New York Times web site. It has me so gobsmacked that, in a departure from my usual web site policy, I am linking to it directly so that you can read it for yourself.

Scott Talks About ‘Robin Hood’
Compiled by Paul Klugman
Published: April 1, 2010

After the weekend announcement that his new movie “Robin Hood” would open this year’s Cannes Film Festival, director Ridley Scott spoke candidly about some of the behind-the-scenes compromises that had to be made in the filmmaking process. His remarks provided an unusual glimpse into the difficult decisions directors sometimes have to make.

“Frankly, I considered just lifting footage directly from the Kevin Costner movie,” said Mr. Scott, as he sipped a glass of claret in his chateau in the south of France. “I mean, with a bit of computer enhancement, that would work just fine. Most of the work is done on computers these days anyway.”

It comes as a bit of surprise to realize that Mr. Scott is not joking. He is deadly serious.

“Of course, in the end, we knew that we couldn’t get away with that. Even if we couldn’t alter the visuals enough so that they weren’t immediately recognizable, you can bet that Warner Bros. lawyers would be all over Universal in a New York minute.”

So, what did Mr. Scott and his team decide to do in the end?

“I can’t believe that I’m telling you this,” says the filmmaker a bit sheepishly, “but we actually re-worked footage from ‘Gladiator.’ It really worked a lot better than you would expect. It saved Russell [Crowe] from having to show up for a substantial amount of location shooting, since he of course starred in both movies. And, frankly, he’s not getting any younger, so it just made sense to use footage shot when he was ten years younger.”

But how did they deal with the fact that ‘Gladiator’ was set in ancient Rome and ‘Robin Hood’ is set in medieval England?

“You realize, of course,” said Mr. Scott, “that substantial portions of both movies take place in a forest. That made it really simple. And the fact that we are doing all of this on computers allowed us to do lots of fun things that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years. For example, we were able to include Oliver Reed in a cameo. He plays a tax collector.”

Mr. Reed, the English actor who died in 1999, has not appeared in a movie since ‘Gladiator.’

Mr. Scott’s frank comments about cannibalizing footage from one film to use in another raises questions about whether he has used this practice in the past or whether he will use it in the future.

“Oh, yes, but we’re very clever about it. For instance, I defy anyone to watch ‘American Gangster’ and spot where we used footage from ‘Black Hawk Down.’ And I’m really giving the game away here, but I’ve actually figured out a way to use footage from ‘A Good Year’ in the new prequel for ‘Alien’ that I’ll be shooting. You can do so many amazing things with computers.”

And has he ever found a use for footage taken from, say, his 1985 movie ‘Legend,’ in which Tom Cruise played a young man named Jack in a magical forest? At this question, Mr. Scott’s countenance darkened considerably.

“We don’t talk about that movie,” he said sternly. “All the footage was destroyed years ago.”

-S.L., 1 April 2010

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