“We're both kind of fairly outspoken,” Scott says of his working relationship with Russell Crowe.
“I think we tell the truth. We communicate with each other that way. And he's probably one of the best two or three actors out there right now and has been for a while. He's just a very fine, inventive chameleon. He's one of the few actors who can literally change.”
Crowe returns the sentiment, agreeing that he and his director have perfected the “art of the wordless argument”.
“What we learned doing Gladiator is we really enjoy being on a set together. We enjoy the rhythms and the energies we both bring to the job,” says the actor.
“What I like most about Ridley Scott is that he's the guv'nor - he's the boss. He begins at the visual and he sees things before you even shoot them, so he can talk to me right at the beginning of the process in terms of what he needs from me.”
But the pair’s rejuvenation of Robin Hood was about to fall victim to the US writers strike in January 2008. With production on Nottingham set to commence with filming in Northumberland, the shockwaves of the strike in Hollywood rippled out to the British-based production.
Amid concerns over an unfinished script, adverse weather conditions and financing, Universal spokesman James Hail said: “They are looking to reschedule it, but whether that has an impact on this region or not remains to be seen.”
As the movie-making cogs slowed, the production focussed instead on other, more manageable areas: namely casting its remaining characters.
On 18 June 2008, the BBC reported that Sienna Miller had been cast as Maid Marian. “It's ridiculous,” the actress said. “There's this looming actor's strike, so it's not 100% sure that it's going to be made, but it's looking pretty certain.”
The very next day, news that Christian Bale was in line to star as Robin Hood caused confusion. The, ahem, ever-dependable Daily Mail reported that Bale would be “part of a menage a trois between Russell Crowe's Sheriff of Nottingham and Sienna Miller's Maid Marian”, while stating that “costume fittings begin next week, so he'll be either in or out by then”.
But the Latino Review, far more reliable than the Mail, reported that Russell Crowe was keen to bag Control’s Sam Riley for the role, poo-pooing the Mail’s report.
The Mail got one thing right, though – Vanessa Redgrave and William Hurt were both in talks to take parts in the flick.
Seizing on the slowed production, Ridley Scott also decided to take the original spec script in a different direction – bringing Robin Hood back into the hero fold, while beefing up the historical context. In August 2008, he brought in Brian Helgelund to give the material a re-jig... but wasn’t happy with the result.
Enter Paul Webb, writer of a script called Lincoln, which Spielberg was eyeing to direct, and Selma, which only now is being made by Precious’ Lee Daniels. As Webb prepared to write a whole new script using Scott’s notes, these new developments shoved the film’s release date back to November 2009, with shooting pegged for early 2009.
Talking of beefing up, Las Vegas trainer Joe Abunassar – renowned for working with many an NBA star – was sent to Australia to get Crowe into shape after he piled on the pounds for Body Of Lies.
Universal chairman Marc Smuger explained why: “Ridley's vision of the movie is very visceral, very physical - you're really in the forest, pulling back a giant bow.
“Those bowmen were extraordinary athletes. I don't know the pressure per square inch, but it surely took a real athlete to handle the kind of bows they used back then. But that's the point - this movie is going to feel real. It makes a legend we all know feel historically relevant.”
Crowe seems dedicated to the cause. “The world doesn't need a mundane version of Robin Hood,” he says. “If we're gonna do it, we've got to kick some serious butt.”
Next: Double Act