His new movie may be set in the 14th century, but Chris Pine says the story of Robert the Bruce and his defeat of the English, has a message which is still relevant today. “This man, who comes from great wealth and power, decides—at a very difficult time—to give up all of that,” says Pine. “He is able to do something great for many, many people.”
Premiering on Netflix in Canada on Nov. 9, Outlaw King is the story of Bruce, a Scottish nobleman who was crowned king, turned into an outlaw and then freed Scotland from English rule.
“The notion is, ‘There is hope in the possibility of doing selfless acts,’” says Pine. “On the hero journey … selfless is always better than selfish.”
The actor admits he did not know a lot about Bruce before taking the role. “There is a ton of dry non-fiction to read, which I went through just to get a sense of who he was,” he says. “There is a great deal of information about him, but very little in the way of psychoanalytics. There’s no My Memoir, by Robert Bruce.”
Bruce led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England. He was involved in the murder of one of his rivals, was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by the Pope for his actions, and won and lost many bloody battles against the English.
Outlaw King’s visuals frequently run red as Bruce leads his men into battle. It was a gruelling and compact 65-day shoot—filming took place in various parts of Scotland—that required Pine to become adept at riding a horse and swinging a sword. It was the chance to work with director David Mackenzie, who helmed Pine in the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water, which drew him to the project.
“I have made a lot of big films, but I had never made a big film with a director who has the sensibility of David. We like to call it ‘jazz filmmaking.’ You have a structure, but there is room to play.”
There may be much we don’t know about Bruce, but one brief Outlaw King scene reveals more of Pine than we have seen on screen before. “To show what we all have [and it] is somehow a Google Alert, it’s a trip,” says Pine about his nude scene.
“I don’t want this film to be all about that,” adds Pine, who notes people are more concerned about that one scene than the violence in the film. “People want to talk about that, and yet there is so much disembowelment and beheading in this film [it’s enough to make] your mind spin.”
Where to experience the history of the real Robert the Bruce
Bruce may have been born at this castle hugging the coast of southwest Scotland in Ayrshire in 1274. Little remains of the castle, which Bruce destroyed in 1310 to prevent the English from occupying it. A golf course now sits near the site, a lighthouse was built in the old moat and some remnants of the original stonework can still be seen.
Bruce was responsible for the death of John Comyn, a rival for the throne. Comyn was murdered in the monastery chapel in Dumfries in 1306. Bruce was later excommunicated by the Pope. The spot of the murder is 60 metres west of the present church, which dates from 1868.
In 1314, Bruce met the army of Edward II in Bannockburn, south of Stirling Castle, one of the most important castles in Scotland. Bruce’s forces were outnumbered by the English, but were able to defeat them, helping to secure Scotland’s independence. The visitor centre includes a 3D experience where you can learn more about the battle’s significance.
[This story appears in the November 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]