By September 2008, the shifting sands of Ridley Scott’s Nottingham meant that confusion about the project was rife, with rumour and all-out lies plaguing the film’s production.
‘Russell Crowe Will Play Robin Hood AND The Sheriff In Ridley Scott's Nottingham' screeched MTV, before going on to report that Scott had revealed Crowe was “playing both!” parts in the film.
Mischievously, Scott added cryptically that the dual role would include “a good old clever adjustment of characters. One becomes the other. It changes.”
Come November, Scott was evidently regretting his cheeky remarks, which were either being dismissed as red herrings or taken to a rather literal extreme in which Crowe would essentially be fighting against himself. Speaking with MTV again, the director attempted to clear up the confusion.
“In the context of the story, he starts off as one thing, becomes the guise of another and then has to retire to the forest to resume his name Robin. So he was momentarily the Sheriff of Nottingham.” Um, thanks Ridley.
Meanwhile, Mark Strong was drafted in to play Sir Godfrey, replacing the Sheriff as the central villain.
“He's such a good bad guy,” said Scott. “He's going to be horrible, actually, as bad as I can make him. Mark's a very good horseman and swordsman so we'll definitely use that.”
And, just to make sure we really were all on the same page, producer Brian Grazer cleared things up over the dual role thing once and for all.
“The two role confusion is that what Robin Hood does is he sees Nottingham in battle very early in the movie and Nottingham dies,” Grazer says. “And Robin Hood takes over the identity of Nottingham. That’s how it plays out.”
With the dawning of 2009, everything was looking slightly more positive on the Nottingham front. The film’s title had been retooled from Nottingham to the much more straight-forward Robin Hood (perhaps to help geographically-challenged Americans as much as reflecting the film’s change in priorities). Shooting was ready to go in April.
Scott revealed more about the plot and what we should expect from his very specific vision of the Hood lore.
To begin the film, “Robin Hood is in the army of Richard Coeur de Lion. He is a bowman in the army of Richard Coeur de Lion.”
As far as the dual role went, the idea was completely scrapped. “It is better to simply have the evolution of a character called Robin Hood, who will come out of a point in the Crusades which is the end,” explains Scott.
As a consequence, the Sheriff is “less important; the Sheriff of Nottingham is always a kind of an amusing character in most of the movies, who represents the hierarchy in the story at that point.
So who will be the real villain of the piece? Apparently the greatest threat comes “from France. It is the French. The villain is much bigger in that sense; much more important, and much more dangerous.”
And any worries that Crowe wouldn’t be able to slim down after Body Of Lies and fit into Hood’s suit were quickly quelled. “He’s been working on his bow and arrow for about 4 months,” Scott said. “He sends me tapes of him hitting targets at about 45 meters. He’s pretty good!”
Next: A New Queen