Bringing The World Of A Scottish Historical Legend Back To Life
♦ Outlaw King is a Netflix film starring Chris Pine about Scottish historical legend Robert The Bruce and theknowledgeonline just ran a feature on how the film used a variety of Scottish locations…
Historical movie Outlaw King filmed on location in Scotland to tell the story of medieval Scottish king Robert the Bruce, who fought against English occupation in the 14th century.
David Mackenzie’s movie stars Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce and filmed in nearly 50 different locations across a 65-day shoot. The production was specifically scheduled to shoot at a time of year when Scotland would look at its best.
“The plan was always to keep the locations true to the story as much as possible,” says Matt Jones, the film’s supervising location manager, in comments to The Knowledge.
A central challenge was that Scotland, and indeed the UK as a whole, does not have much medieval architecture that has suitably survived the passage of time and that is easily accessible for filming.
Stories set in the era are more often shot in Eastern Europe, where intact castles and fortresses are readily available.
Stirling Castle was one example of a particular location challenge. The 12th century landmark is a key setting in the story of Robert the Bruce and the broader history of Scotland. However, it is not a suitable filming location so Mackenzie’s team had to build their own set nearby.
“In many cases the team built set extensions to existing historic locations and complemented these builds with visual effects,” Jones explains.
Primary filming locations for the movie included Linlithgow Palace and Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh, Dunfermline Abbey across the Forth River in Fife and Glasgow Cathedral. More rural locations included Tullibardine Chapel, Borthwick Castle and Doune Castle.
Mackenzie’s team had to make concessions to practicality with some of the key locations including for the film’s climactic Battle of Loudon Hill, a recreation of an event from 1307.
The real location is a rural spot found a relatively remote 35 miles south of Glasgow but the team instead built the setting at Mugdock Park just north of the city. Here they had access to similar topography and they could build ‘bog’ features that were safe for performers and horses alike.
Location filming shifted south of the modern-day border briefly for scenes set in Berwick-upon-Tweed. The town has been the northernmost in England since the early 1700s, but during the specific time-frame of Outlaw King was in fact part of Scotland.
“The film was shot almost entirely on location, except for just a few days using interiors at Pyramids Business Park, basically for weather cover,” Jones tells The Knowledge of the overall shoot.
Pyramids offers one 64,000-sq-ft sound stage midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and has previously hosted scenes for Danny Boyle’s film T2: Trainspotting.
Jones is clear that production crews make adapted warehouse spaces work, not just for shoots in Scotland but also elsewhere in the UK. However, he supports the idea of a purpose-built studio facility that is currently lacking in Scotland.
“Pyramids worked fine for Outlaw King for the few days we were there – it has a waterproof, high-ceilinged warehouse that suited our needs. But you can’t beat the feel of a purpose-built facility.”
Industry pressure for a purpose-built studio in Scotland has been steady for the past few years. The government has stressed its support for the idea in principle, but has so far been hesitant to commit to a firm plan that makes any use of public money.
Images: Netflix/David Eustace