The royal treatment
Chris Pine heads to the Highlands to tell the epic story of Robert The Bruce
AS ONE OF the four Movie Chrises, Chris Pine is one of the most bankable names in Hollywood. So it’s somewhat incongruous to see him in a scraggly beard near Edinburgh, just off the M9. This is Outlaw King, a historical film shot in a style that Scottish director David Mackenzie dubs “epic realism”— and as Empire watches Pine receive his crown during a coronation scene at Linlithgow Palace, it all seems remarkably real. Here’s how he pulled off an unlikely epic.
PICK THE RIGHT STAR
Outlaw King sees Mackenzie continuing the acclaimed partnership he established with Chris Pine on Hell Or High Water. “We set about trying to do this in the same freewheeling spirit.” Pine, he believes, “has a heroic look to him but there’s also vulnerability.” And his Scottish accent? “It’s very good!”
FIND YOUR FOCUS
The approach Mackenzie hit upon in adapting The Bruce’s sprawling story was to focus on a single year in his life. “It’s one of history’s great comebacks,” the director explains. “A rapid downward trajectory and then the grabbing of opportunities to pull himself back.” The famous Battle of Bannockburn happens eight years after the events of the film. “We don’t get as far as that. We chose the lesser known Battle of Loudoun Hill as our climax.”
EXPLORE THE HERO
Having made a career out of anti-hero movies, Mackenzie was attracted to the theme of heroism. “I’ve always thought of Robert The Bruce’s story as being heroic,” he says, “although he’s a flawed hero. He was the second-biggest landowner in Scotland, but he gave up everything to set his country free.”
STICK TO THE HISTORY
Positioning itself as something of an anti-braveheart, Outlaw King is fastidious about getting its history as accurate as possible, and careful not to thump an ideological tub. “It’s important to me not to make any sort of supremacist, blood-and-soil nationalist sort of movie,” Mackenzie insists. “This film is much more about personalities than it is about nationalities. I’m not trying to make any contemporary parallels. This is a story that happened 700 years ago and in the past it must remain.”
OUTLAW KING IS ON NETFLIX FROM 9 NOVEMBER
Empire was on set in Scotland in September 2017, and then spoke to David Mackenzie in his London flat in August 2018.
Clockwise from main: Crowning glory: Isabella Macduff (Kim Allan) crowns the ‘Outlaw King’, Robert The Bruce (Chris Pine); James Douglas (Aaron Taylor-johnson) is battle ready; Director David Mackenzie is deep in thought; Robert The Bruce arrives on shore with his band of outlaws; The king with wife Elizabeth de Burgh (Florence Pugh).