Robert the Bruce film is the 'birth of a hero' says Angus Macfadyen

By Steven Brocklehurst
BBC Scotland News

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image captionAngus Macfadyen says his film is about the birth of a hero

Angus Macfadyen first played Robert The Bruce in Braveheart two decades ago and he is now back - this time as the "hero".

In Mel Gibson's 1995 film about the life of 13th Century Scottish warrior William Wallace, The Bruce is portrayed as far from heroic.

The film's ending shows Robert, inspired by Wallace, leading the charge at the Battle of Bannockburn, which would see him become king of an independent Scotland.

However, while Wallace is alive he is seen in Braveheart as a weak man dominated by his father who is willing to swap sides to win.

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image captionAngus Macfadyen in a scene from the film 'Braveheart', 1995

In his new film - Robert The Bruce - which had its premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Sunday, Macfadyen goes back to the years after Wallace's death when the Scots clan chiefs were vying for the throne.

In 1306, Robert the Bruce crowns himself king but he cannot overcome England's power and is repeatedly defeated.

His army is scattered and Scotland's nobility abandons him.

Macfadyen, who co-wrote the script for the film, told BBC Scotland's The Nine: "It's about what happened to Robert the Bruce when he basically came to the conclusion that his ambition had destroyed his country and he had had enough of fighting."

The Bruce is a hunted man with a price on his head and he finds himself alone and wounded.

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image captionRobert The Bruce was mainly filmed in Montana

Macfadyen says the defeated Bruce is then "metaphorically born again".

"What you see is the process of the birth of a hero," he says.

The 55-year-old actor has spent 13 years trying to get the film made and, like his lead character, he had all but given up before he finally achieved his goal.

He says the process made him realise that "sometimes there is a force, call it fate, call it destiny that is at work behind the scenes and defining when the moment should be that an event should occur".

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image captionMel Gibson's Braveheart led to a surge in Scottish nationalist confidence, Macfadyen says

Macfadyen, a strong supporter of Scottish independence, tweeted last week that perhaps First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had learned this lesson too.

He said the SNP leader was like a "hungry but patient" spider who had spun her web and was waiting for her prey to come to her.

He tweeted: "Blind and stupid they come. Soon we will be born free and wild."

'Economic situation'

The reaction on social media was not wholly positive but Macfadyen is unbowed.

He believes that Mel Gibson's Braveheart led to a surge in Scottish nationalist confidence and he hopes his film can play a role in the current political climate, which is dominated by Brexit and the continued independence debate.

"A movie that can touch you and emotionally get inside you and stir you up and maybe remind you of your own humanity is a good thing," he says.

He says he insisted on having the world premiere in Edinburgh because he wants Scots to see it.

"That's the most important thing for me," he says.

While some scenes from the film were shot in Scotland, it was mainly made in the US state of Montana.

Macfadyen says: "It was to do with the economic situation mostly. We had land to shoot on in the States. We did come here and shoot because it was very important for us to come and we found the money to do that."

According to Macfadyen, the film - directed by Australian director Richard Gray - is very different to Braveheart because it "does not glorify war".

He says: "The film I wanted to tell was about the consequences of violence and what it does to entire clans and families. It tears them apart. This movie is about Scots versus Scots. There is not an Englishman in sight."

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image captionGame of Thrones star Daniel Portman is one of the stars of the film

However, in addition to Scots such as Game of Thrones star Daniel Portman, the cast does include Englishman Jared Harris as well as New Zealander Anna Hutchison and Americans Zach McGowan and Emma Kenney.

This international cast led to Macfadyen's biggest fear when making the film - getting the accents right.

Australian-raised Mel Gibson's accent when he played William Wallace was given a rough ride by the critics.

"I'm pretty pleased with everybody's accents," Macfadyen says.

"I think that is the most nerve-wracking thing because poor Mel had such a hard time."

Glasgow-born Macfadyen, who has spent much of the past three decades filming around the world, says his own accent is no longer considered Scottish by many.

He says: "Being Scottish is something you have in your heart not something that comes off your tongue."

Robert the Bruce is on general release from 28 June.