Braveheart is a 1995 historical action-drama movie produced and directed by Mel Gibson, who also starred in the title role. The film was written for screen and then novelized by Randall Wallace. Gibson portrays a legendary Scot, William Wallace, who gained recognition when he came to the forefront of the First War of Scottish Independence by opposing Edward I of England (portrayed by Patrick McGoohan) and subsequently abetted by Edward's daughter-in-law Princess Isabelle (played by Sophie Marceau) and a claimant to the Scottish throne, Robert the Bruce (played by Angus Macfadyen).
The film won five Academy Awards at the 68th Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director, and had been nominated for an additional five. Produced by Icon Productions for Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox, the film's success may have helped to revive the historical epic genre, with subsequent films such as Gladiator, The Patriot, Alexander, Troy, Kingdom of Heaven, 300 and Mongol.
In A.D. 1280 Edward I of England
, known as "Longshanks", has occupied much of Scotland
, and his oppressive rule there leads to the deaths of William Wallace's father and brother. Years later, after Wallace has been raised abroad by his uncle, the Scots continue to live under the harsh thumb of Longshanks' cruel laws. Wallace returns, intent on living as a farmer and avoiding involvement in the ongoing "Troubles." Wallace rekindles a romance with his childhood friend Murron after showing her the carefully preserved thistle she gave him as a child, and the two marry in secret to avoid the primae noctis
decree the King has set forth. But after Wallace attacks a group of English soldiers attempting to rape
her, the village Sheriff publicly cuts Murron's throat before Wallace is able to save her. An enraged Wallace, with the assistance of his fellow villagers, slaughters the English garrison. He then cuts the sheriff's throat with the same dagger that killed Murron.
Knowing that the local English lord will retaliate, Wallace and his men enter his castle dressed in English uniforms and burn it down. In response to Wallace's exploits, the commoners of Scotland rise in revolt against England.
As his legend spreads, hundreds of Scots from the surrounding clans volunteer to join Wallace's militia. Wallace leads his army through a series of successful battles against the English, including the Battle of Stirling and sacking the city of York. However, he is betrayed by the Scottish nobility and defeated at the Battle of Falkirk.
He goes into hiding, fighting a guerrilla war against English forces, and personally murders the two Scottish nobles who betrayed him at Falkirk. Meanwhile, Princess Isabelle, whose husband Prince Edward (Longshanks's son and heir) ignores her, meets with Wallace as the English King's emissary. She and Wallace share a tryst, during which she conceives Wallace's child. Still believing there is some good in the nobility of his country, Wallace eventually agrees to meet with the Bruce. He is caught in a trap set by the elder Bruce and the other nobles, beaten unconscious, and handed over to the English Crown. Robert the Bruce is enraged by his father's treachery, and disowns him forever.
In London, Wallace is brought before the English magistrates and tried for high treason. He denies the charges, declaring that he had never accepted Edward as his King. The court responds by sentencing him to be "purified by pain." Later, in a London square, William Wallace is tortured to death, being hanged, racked, and disemboweled. The magistrate offers him a quick death in exchange for a plea for mercy. Awed by Wallace's courage, the Londoners watching the execution begin to yell for mercy to be given. William signals to the magistrate that he wishes to speak. Using the last strength in his body, he cries, "Freedom!" and turns his head, seeing Murron in the crowd smiling at him as he is beheaded.
Some time later, Robert the Bruce takes control of the remaining Scottish army and faces a ceremonial line of English troops at the fields of Bannockburn. Cheering Wallace's name, Robert the Bruce and the Scots charge the stunned English lines and win their freedom.
Gibson thought that he was too old to play the role of William Wallace
and wished instead to cast actor Jason Patric
. However, his company Icon Productions
had difficulty raising enough money even if Gibson agreed to star in the film. Warner Bros.
was willing to fund the project on the condition that Gibson sign for another Lethal Weapon
sequel, which he refused. Paramount Pictures
only agreed to domestic distribution of Braveheart
after Fox Studios
partnered for international rights.
While the crew spent six weeks shooting on location in Scotland, the major battle scenes were shot in Ireland using members of the Irish Army Reserve as extras. The opposing armies are made up of reservists, up to 1,600 in some scenes, who had been given permission to grow beards and swapped their olive-drab uniforms for medieval garb.
- Mel Gibson as William Wallace. After his wife is killed by the English, he starts an uprising demanding justice that leads to a war for independence.
- Patrick McGoohan as King Edward I. Nicknamed "Longshanks", the King of England is determined to ruthlessly put down the Scottish threat and ensure his kingdom's sovereignty.
- Peter Hanly as Edward, Prince of Wales. The son of King Edward and husband of Princess Isabelle through arranged marriage.
- Ian Bannen as Robert the Bruce, Sr.. Unable to seek the throne personally due to his disfiguring leprosy, he pragmatically schemes to put his son on the throne of Scotland.
- Angus Macfadyen as Robert the Bruce. Son of the elder Bruce and claimant to the throne of Scotland, he is inspired by Wallace's dedication and bravery.
- Sophie Marceau as Princess Isabelle. Unhappily married to the effete Edward, Prince of Wales, she finds herself deeply attracted to Wallace's passion and bravery.
- Brendan Gleeson as Hamish Campbell. Wallace's childhood friend and lieutenant in Wallace's army, he is often short-sighted and thinks with his fists.
- James Cosmo as Campbell the Elder. The father of Hamish Campbell and lieutenant in Wallace's army.
- Catherine McCormack as Murron MacClannough, the executed wife of Wallace. Her name was changed from Marion Braidfute in the script so as to not be confused with the Maid Marian of Robin Hood note.
- David O'Hara as Mad Stephen. An Irish recruit into Wallace's army, he endears himself to Wallace with his humor, which may or may not be insanity. He professes to be the most wanted man on "his" island, and claims to speak to God personally. He becomes Wallace's protector, saving his life several times.
- Brian Cox as Uncle Argyle. After the death of Wallace's father and brother, Argyle takes Wallace as a child into his care, promising to teach the boy how to use a sword after he learns to use his head. Cox also had a role in another period Scottish film, Rob Roy, which was released the same year.
- James Robinson II as Young William. The 10-year old actor reportedly spent weeks trying to copy Gibson's mannerisms for the film.
On opening weekend, Braveheart grossed US$9,938,276 in the United States. Its overall domestic gross was $75.6 million, and its total worldwide gross was $210.4 million.
The film's depiction of the Battle of Stirling is often considered one of the greatest movie battles in cinema history.
The film generated huge interest in Scotland and in Scottish history, not only around the world, but also in Scotland itself. Fans come from all over the world to see the places in Scotland where William Wallace fought for Scottish freedom, and also to Ireland to see the locations used in the film. At a Braveheart Convention in 1997, held in Stirling the day after the Scottish Devolution vote and attended by 200 delegates from around the world, Braveheart author Randall Wallace, Seoras Wallace of the Wallace Clan, Scottish historian David Ross and Bláithín FitzGerald from Ireland gave lectures on various aspects of the film. Several of the actors also attended including James Robinson (Young William), Andrew Weir (Young Hamish), Julie Austin (the young bride) and Mhairi Calvey (Young Murron).
The film won numerous awards including the 1995 Academy Award
The film is credited by Lin Anderson
, author of Braveheart: From Hollywood To Holyrood
as having played a significant role in affecting the Scottish political landscape in the mid to late 1990s.
In 1997 a statue
of Gibson as "William Wallace" was placed outside the Wallace Monument
. The statue, which includes the word "Braveheart" on Wallace's shield, the work of sculptor Tom Church, was the cause of much controversy and one local resident stated that it was wrong to "desecrate the main memorial to Wallace with a lump of crap". In 1998 the statue was vandalised by someone who smashed the face in with a hammer. After repairs were made, the statue was encased in a cage at night to prevent further vandalism. This has only incited more calls for the statue to be removed as it now appears that the Gibson/Wallace figure is imprisoned; an irony, considering that the statue bears the word "Freedom" on the plinth
Spoofs and cultural references
- In the South Park episode "Starvin' Marvin", both Chef and the leader of the evil turkeys deliver speeches à la Wallace to their people just before leading the charge into battle.
- In the "Ben Franklin" episode of the US version of The Office from season 3, boss Michael Scott uses the term "Primae Noctis" inappropriately during preparations for Phyllis Smith's wedding. Character Jim Halpert states that he believes it is used in the movie Braveheart and that it was confirmed on Wikipedia.
- In the video game Daxter, there is an unlockable Braveheart dream sequence.
- In the episode of Family Guy titled "No Chris Left Behind," a portrayal of Mel Gibson is shown giving his army the adrenaline pumping speech. However, before they get fired up, Stewie comes and gives his own "go get 'em" speech by preaching about the taxes levied against abutment of church lands, which subsequently lowers the adrenaline rush of the army.
- On episode 4 of the first season of Greek, Cappie gives the Kappa Tau Gamma hockey team Wallace's first speech about freedom almost verbatim.
Although Randall Wallace
wrote the screenplay, the depiction of a "effeminate" character in the film drew accusations of 'homophobia' against Gibson. Source Review
Some have criticized Braveheart
for its portrayal of the Prince of Wales
as weak and effeminate and for the scene in which Edward I
throws his son’s male lover out of the window. Gibson defended his depiction of Prince Edward as weak and ineffectual, saying,
“'I'm just trying to respond to history. You can cite other examples – Alexander the Great, for example, who conquered the entire world, was also a homosexual. But this story isn't about Alexander the Great. It's about Edward II.”
Gibson asserted that the reason the king killed his son’s lover was because the king was a “psychopath
,” and he expressed bewilderment that some audience members would laugh at this murder:
"We cut a scene out, unfortunately . . . where you really got to know that character (Edward II) and to understand his plight and his pain. . . . But it just stopped the film in the first act so much that you thought, 'When's this story going to start?'
Historian Elizabeth Ewan describes Braveheart as a film which "almost totally sacrifices historical accuracy for epic adventure".
Historian Sharon Kressa notes that the film contains numerous historical errors, beginning with the wearing of belted plaid by Wallace and his men. She points out that in the period in question, no Scots "wore kilts of any kind," and when highlanders finally did begin wearing the belted plaid, it was not "in the rather bizarre style depicted in the film". She compares the inaccuracy to that of a film about "Colonial America showing the colonial men wearing late 20th century blue jeans, but instead of having the men's blue jeans use a zipper in the front, putting the zipper prominently on the left hip."
Historian Alex von Tunzelmann writing in The Guardian noted several historical inaccuracies: William Wallace never met Isabelle, as she married the Prince of Wales three years after Wallace's death; in the film the Battle of Stirling Bridge didn't include Stirling Bridge itself; and the primae noctis decree was never used by King Edward.
Screenwriter Randall Wallace is very vocal about defending his script from historians who have dismissed the film as a Hollywood perversion of actual events. Admitting that Braveheart is based more on Blind Harry's poem than any historical source, he has said: "Is Blind Harry true? I don't know. I know that it spoke to my heart and that's what matters to me, that it spoke to my heart."
In the DVD audio commentary of Braveheart, director Mel Gibson acknowledges many of the historical inaccuracies but defends his choices as director, noting that the way events were portrayed in the film were much more "cinematically compelling" than the historical and/or mythical fact.
The soundtrack for Braveheart was composed by James Horner
, who also composed soundtracks for Titanic
, and Apollo 13
. The music was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra
. The first soundtrack was noticeably successful, and Horner produced a follow-up soundtrack in 1997 titled More Music from Braveheart
. International and French versions of the soundtrack have also been released. The original album contains 77 minutes of background music taken from significant scenes in the film.
- Main Title (2:51)
- A Gift of a Thistle (1:37)
- Wallace Courts Murron (4:25)
- The Secret Wedding (6:33)
- Attack on Murron (3:00)
- Revenge (6:23)
- Murron’s Burial (2:13)
- Making Plans/ Gathering the Clans (2:05)
- “Sons of Scotland” (6:19)
- The Battle of Stirling (6:07)
- For the Love of a Princess (4:07)
- Falkirk (4:04)
- Betrayal & Desolation (7:48)
- Mornay’s Dream (1:18)
- The Legend Spreads (1:09)
- The Princess Pleads for Wallace’s Life (3:38)
- “Freedom”/The Execution/ Bannockburn (7:24)
- End Credits (7:16)
More Music from Braveheart (1997)
The follow-up soundtrack features much more dialogue taken from the actual film than did the original soundtrack.
- Prologue/ "I Shall Tell You of Williams…" (dialogue-Robert the Bruce) (3:35)
- Outlawed Tunes on Outlawed Bag Pipes (2:03)
- The Royal Wedding (dialogue-Robert the Bruce) (2:12)
- "The Trouble with Scotland" (dialogue-King Edward the Longshanks) (0:40)
- Scottish Wedding Music (1:14)
- Prima Noctum (1:46)
- The Proposal (dialogue-Wallace and Murron) (1:35)
- "Scotland Is Free!" (dialogue-Wallace) (0:17)
- Point of War/JonnyCope/Up in the Morning Early (traditional) (2:59)
- Conversing with the Almighty (dialogue-various) (1:20)
- The Road to the Isles/ Grendaural Highlanders/ The Old Rustic Bridge by the Hill (traditional) (3:52)
- "Son of Scotland!" (dialogue-Wallace) (12:09)
- Vision of Murron (1:45)
- "Unite the Clans!" (dialogue-Wallace) (0:23)
- The Legend Spreads (dialogue-Storytellers) (1:07)
- "Why Do You Help Me?" (dialogue-Wallace and Princess Isabelle) (0:37)
- For the Love of a Princess (previously released score) (4:05)
- "Not Every man Really Lives" (dialogue-Wallace and Isabelle)
- "The Prisoner wishes to Say a Word (dialogue-The Executioner and Wallace) (3:43)
- "After the Beheading" (dialogue-Robert the Bruce) (1:48)
- "You Have Bled for Wallace!" (dialogue-Robert the Bruce) (1:22)
- Warrior Poets (dialogue-Wallace) (0:29)
- Scotland the Brave (traditional) (2:47)
- Leaving Glenurquhart (traditional) (3:32)
- Kirkhill (traditional) (4:08)