After more than 10 years of collaboration with Russell Crowe, veteran director Ridley Scott has gotten used to late-night phone calls.
“Sometimes with Russell, you’ve just gone to bed, maybe had too much to drink, and it’s about quarter to one in the morning and the phone goes. And I go, ‘Oh, s---, it’s Russell,’” Scott says with a grin. “He usually calls from Australia and says, ‘All right? I hope it’s not too late.’ And I say, ‘Well actually, it is.’”
It was just such a phone call that spawned their latest film — their fifth together — Robin Hood. During one particular late-night call, Crowe presented Scott with an idea.
“He said, ‘I’ve got this Robin Hood thing.’ And I said, ‘All right, let me read it.’ So we got into it, and I said, fundamentally, with deepest respect to the chaps who wrote it, it needs a lot of work,” Scott remembers. “And that’s what we did. We got into the reworking of it.”
That reworking ended up taking more time than expected, Scott admits, as the Hollywood writers’ strike brought their rewriting to a halt. One thing that needed to change, Scott knew, was the title.
“At the time it was called Nottingham, which I think threw everyone into a tizz thinking, ‘How cool.’ And I hate that word, 'cool,'” Scott sneers. “Because what does ‘cool’ mean? All it is is you’re going to call a film Nottingham, and you’re going to spend half your marketing explaining why you’ve called it Nottingham and not Robin Hood. So I said we should just call it Robin Hood and start again.”
With the new, simpler title in place, the film is ready to premiere tomorrow at the Cannes Film Festival — something Scott hadn’t anticipated. “I know the Cannes festival tries to protect itself by being only about high-brow thinking in movies, but I think they’ve changed,” he says.
“They’ve realized that actually commerce does come into it. But you don’t put a high-budget movie in Cannes in competition. I wouldn’t do that. But they saw the movie and said they’d like to open the festival with it, which is really nice.”
The director also admits he thought his Robin Hood might cause a bit of a stink in Cannes, since the French don’t fare very well in his film.
“I didn’t realize we were going to be opening the film in Cannes,” he admits. “The French, who hate to be beaten at anything, are going to hate it. When it was run for the committee, the eight guys watched it, and I said, ‘And?’ And I thought they were all going to say, ‘But, you know you kick our ass at the end?’ And they said, ‘It’s fine.’ And I said, ‘Um, were you watching it?’”