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The writers: ‘Robin Hood’ screenwriter works for contemporary theme

The steal-from-the-rich, give-to-the-poor notion takes a back seat to a study of a disillusioned war veteran trying to give his people a voice.

May 02, 2010|By John Horn, Los Angeles Times

Whatever you say about Russell Crowe's up-with-people campaign against unresponsive, property-grabbing government in " Robin Hood," don't suggest to its makers that the historical epic is the first Tea Party movie. "No, no," says screenwriter Brian Helgeland. "That would not be good."

For all of its 12th century trappings, Helgeland and director Ridley Scott's retelling of the mythical English archer tries to be thematically contemporary. Rather than a steal-from-the rich yeoman, the film's titular hero is a disillusioned war veteran just back from a distant, violent campaign against Muslims. "We wanted to tell the story of how the myth was created," says producer Brian Grazer.

Hood's homeland is ruled by a king with little concern for his subjects and somebody — maybe that guy who's so good with bows and arrows? — needs to step up and take the country back. "There's a very strong destiny story in this," says Scott, who shot most of the film on British locations, including Sherwood Forest.

Hood and his merry men are far less interested in redistributing the wealth than making sure King John (Oscar Isaac) focuses on the people in England. King John is in cahoots with a villainous adviser (Mark Strong's Sir Godfrey purports to be English, but he's as French as foie gras). "That's where the heart of this Robin Hood is," says Helgeland, whose credits include "L.A. Confidential" and "A Knight's Tale." "He is trying to give the people a voice."

But don't expect Scott, whose "Gladiator" turned Crowe into a global, Oscar-winning star, to focus on shuttle diplomacy. The movie is filled with fighting, including a reverse D-Day landing by the French on England's shores that casts Hood as a battlefield strategist in the mold of Eisenhower. "The biggest challenge," Scott says of some of the film's inventions, "is how can we be original? Because if you don't, it becomes cliché."

Even with so many horses and quivers and lances, "Robin Hood" also aims to have something for women. And that's where Maid Marian ( Cate Blanchett) comes in. Her husband has been killed and she might need someone to help around the house — maybe that guy who's so good with bows and arrows? "You have to remember," Scott says, "that you have to be romantic."

john.horn@latimes.com


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