A Knight's Tale

A Knight's Tale is a 2001 action/adventure/romantic comedy directed, produced, and written by Brian Helgeland. The film stars Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, and Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer.


Set in late medieval Europe in the 1370s, the plot centers on a young peasant squire called William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), who, after the death of his knight, Sir Ector, joins the jousting circuit, an act forbidden to those not of noble birth. Thatcher travels around Europe under the pseudonym of Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein, along with two fellow squires, Wat and Roland (Alan Tudyk and Mark Addy); his well-spoken herald, Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany); and his armourer, Kate the Farrier (Laura Fraser). Along the way, he falls in love with a noble young lady, Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), and develops a rivalry with Count Adhemar of Anjou (Rufus Sewell).



It can be assumed the movie is set sometime between 1368 and 1376; Chaucer mentions having already written The Book of the Duchess, which was written no earlier than 1368, while Edward, the Black Prince (who appears in the movie) died in 1376. There is also a reference to a French pope which could either be Pope Urban V or Pope Gregory XI, because both reigned during that period and both of them were French.

The time period can be further narrowed down to between 1369—when the Black Prince resumed his campaign in southern France—and 1371, when the campaign ended. However, the Battle Of Poitiers is shown as occurring during the course of the film, despite taking place in 1356. Additionally, Edward is depicted as a fairly young man, closer to the 26 suggested by Poitiers than the 39 to 41 suggested by his campaign in southern France.

Even though the approximate setting of the film can be easily deduced, the costuming (especially the armor) is much more in late 15th century style than 14th.

In the film's actor/director DVD commentary, Brian Helgeland, co-commentating with Paul Bettany, states that the film was intended to have occurred sometime in the 1370s during a six-month period that Chaucer had apparently gone missing and show what he might have done during this time, which Helgeland says later on in the commentary inspired Chaucer to write his Canterbury Tales (the first Canterbury tale being The Knight's Tale). Helgeland also jokes in the commentary that he chose 1970s music and hairstyles for the movie because "the seventies are always the same", regardless of century. More seriously, Helgeland justifies his use of music by speculating that even during the 1370s, persons in the main characters' age group would've enjoyed newer, more contemporary music than something that had been around since their great grandparents were young, and opted to use music that would affect the audience the same way late 1300s music would've affected the youth of the 1370s. Thus, Helgeland attempted to stylize the movie in such a way as to bring the Middle Ages to the audience, rather than force the audience into the Middle Ages.


Newsweek revealed in June 2001 that print ads for at least four movies released by Columbia Pictures, including A Knight's Tale and The Animal (2001), contained glowing comments from a film reviewer who did not exist. The fake critic, David Manning, was created by a Columbia employee who worked in the advertising department. "Manning" was misrepresented as a reviewer for a newspaper in a small Connecticut town.


The entire movie was filmed in Prague, the Czech Republic.

The film includes a great deal of jousting footage. The initial scene of the two knights jousting is actually footage of Heath Ledger's stunt double in an accident. During filming of a later scene in the movie, the lance of the stunt double's opponent moved off target and hit him in the head. The double fell to the ground unconscious. In another incident, Heath Ledger knocked out one of director Brian Helgeland's front teeth with a broomstick when the two were demonstrating a jousting move. It was several months before Helgeland's mouth had healed enough to repair the damage.

Plenty of effort was expended creating lances that would splinter convincingly without injuring the stunt riders as well. The body of each lance was scored so it would break easily, and the tips were made of balsa wood. Each was also hollowed out, and the hole filled with balsa chips, uncooked linguini and sawdust to make convincing splinters.


Initially the reception for this film was mixed, with complaints about the anachronisms, the many jousting scenes and the supposedly thin plot. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 59%.


The film combines action, comedy, and romance, and is notable for its deliberate use of anachronisms, such as the use of classic rock songs like Queen's "We Will Rock You," War's "Low Rider," David Bowie's "Golden Years," Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" and many others in the soundtrack of a film that notionally takes place during the Middle Ages.


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