Film and TV

Braveheart Red Carpet Interviews

by on 04/07/2014

I’ve often wondered for years, just how well Scotland takes to the 1995 film Braveheart. It’s always been one of those films I could never quite tell if it was well received or if people were simply being polite. It’s historically inaccurate and a Scottish hero is being portrayed by the most un-Scottish person going – yet it still holds a captivating charm that does stay true to the spirit of Scotland.

It’s not a film I would’ve expected to be at EIFF this year, but 20 years on since production first started on the 1995 blockbuster, and 700 years since the Battle of Bannockburn itself, it’s easy to see why it returned to grace the screen of The Dominion theatre once more – along with a fair handful of the cast who opted to walk the tartan carpet and prove once and for all that the spirit of Independence is still very much alive.

In true Geeky-fashion, I was permitted to cover the carpet this time around, and after a small measure of fangirling got to pit a few questions to some very familiar faces, before being seated for a Q&A and getting to rewatch the memorable film in all of it’s 182 minute glory. So what did these fearless lads of Scotland have to say to us? Read on to find out some of the highlights below!

First up we had Stephen Billington, who portrayed Phillip in the film.

It’s been twenty years since filming began on Braveheart, do you even remember your first day on Braveheart?

I do, I was in a 4×4 going to a muddy field, just outside Dublin. We were bouncing over ruts and we stopped in this field. This other 4×4 came across the bumps and Mel Gibson leapt out, dressed like these fellas with blue paint on his face. He’s going ‘hey Stephen, thanks for joining us.’ So that was my first day.

Do you think Braveheart’s had a positive impact on Scottish culture?

I don’t think that’s really for me to say. Do you think it’s had a positive effect? I think it’s certainly given a kind of fire and passion to the historical context of Scotland. And I don’t think that can be a bad thing. I mean we all know, the film in itself isn’t historically accurate, but it’s about that kind of passion, isn’t it?

Did you think that when you worked on Braveheart, twenty years down the line that it would still have such an impact?

I don’t think anyone could have imagined that. I mean the fact that it won 5 Oscars and has become such a classic of its type. It’s almost like a traditional Hollywood movie; a big epic with masses of extras and big epic landscapes etc. They just don’t make films like that anymore.

Did you have any favourite scenes?

Yeah, probably my death scene really, because it was so iconic. Like, everyone I know that’s seen the film, even though I’m not in it very much, they remember that scene because it’s quite a shock. And I remember at the premiere, ’cause, I played an evil English person, everyone cheered when I died – which you know, for a young actor was a bit upsetting to be honest, but you know – I understood. In the long run.

Are you still scared of open windows now?

Yep. Yeah, I have a deep fear of defenestration.

Next up we had the screen legend that is Brian Cox.

Obviously it’s a very violent film, do you think that violence is justified in the historical context of such a film?

Have you watched Game of Thrones? It’s pretty violent. Braveheart’s not quite as violent as that. I think y’know, violence is one of those facts of life. We have to treat it with respect, with care. But the violence in Braveheart is really to do with the time, but unfortunately violence is with us whether we like it or not. So when you tackle something like a country’s struggle, then violence is going to come into it.

Do you think it’s had a positive effect on Scottish popular culture?

Oh I think it’s had a very positive effect on Scottish popular culture. I think it’s an iconic film, you know it’s a film that a lot of people love. And they love it for the reason that it celebrates our uniqueness and what we are and what we’ve come through. I mean everybody sees it as an anti-English film, but it’s not an anti-English film, it’s an anti-Imperial film, it’s an anti-people telling you to do as you’re told film. And that’s what’s good about the film, that’s what’s interesting about the film. To represent so many films that touch upon the situations of countries struggling on their own worth and Braveheart hits that right on the head.

And finally, the ever lovely Peter Mullan had his say too!

The film is obviously very iconic, would you say it’s reinvigorated a sense of pride in a new generation?

No. No I wouldn’t go as far as to say that. I will say that in a cinematic, cultural sense it co-exists with Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, the films by Ken Loach & Danny Boyle. I think if you like three of the most important film makers in Scotland, in the early 90’s they were all non-Scots. There was Ken Loach, Danny Boyle and there was Mel Gibson. And that’s not to say they’re all singing from the same song sheet, but they all produce movies one way or another that put the Scots experience from the silly (which is Braveheart)  to the kind of pop (which is Trainspotting) to the kind of serious which would be Ken Loach. In cinemas, all of them, and completely inadvertently I think they gave us far more confidence in cinema than they’d ever given us before. I think the reason why so many more Scots acts have come through in the past twenty years or so was down in part to them and to those film makers, and also to actors like Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, the confidence they gave to other actors is off the charts