Hollywood star Chris Pine declared that he did not want his new Robert the Bruce epic to be “wielded as a tool” for Scottish independence as he unveiled the Netflix film in Edinburgh.
The American actor, who followed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon down the red carpet at the film’s Scottish premiere, described the film “as a meditation on one man’s desire for power, for autonomy and an end to tyranny.”
But Pine, who said he had spoken to a number of history professors during extensive research which included a visit to Bannockburn, said he became convinced the Scottish hero was a “tricky” and “Machiavellian figure,” whose early allegiances were hard to pin down.
Outlaw King, the biggest Scottish film of all-time, also received the biggest ever public subsidy, of £1 million, despite being bankrolled by Netflix, which will launch the film on 9 November.
However the extensive location filming, which spanned 45 locations around 65 days, was thought to be worth £17.5 million for the economy, with huge spin-offs for the tourism industry expected when the film is launched on the streaming service.
Pine compared the dramatic landscapes used in Outlaw King, including Glencoe and the Isle of Skye, to those featured in the Lord of the Rings blockbusters.
Asked what he thought Scots would make of the film, Pine said: “It’s difficult for me to speak for anyone in Scotland. I hope they enjoy it. I don’t think your country has ever looked more beautiful. I hope the characters are compelling and the action is accurate in its brutality. I didn’t set out to make a film that would be wielded as a tool for Scottish independence. It’s a meditation on one man’s desire for power, for autonomy and an end to tyranny.”
Asked if thought the film would help the independence cause, Pine said: “That’s just not what I get paid to do. I get paid to tell stories.”
Pine said he realised the enormity of the role meant had to be his “due diligence” by researching extensively on what motivated his character.
“From all I could gather, in trying to pin down why he did what he did, this was a man who was very opaque and nebulous.
“William Wallace seemed a bit more straightforward, but I liked the fact he wasn’t straightforward and his allegiances couldn’t be pinned down, at least in the beginning. He kisses the ring of Edward, he relinquishes his army and he accepts defeat, but quite soon after that he begins his little moves in guerrilla warfare.
“You can see a man testing the water. I took that as someone who was Machiavellian in nature. He was biding his time. I liked the thoughtfulness of that. I tried to find out specifically what drove him, but really failed, despite all the research I did and all the historians I spoke to. He is continually a nebulous fellow in my mind. He seems to me to be a very tricky fellow. I believe that he felt he deserved to be king.
“I probably believe there was a selfish part of him that didn’t want to free his land from tyranny. Like all men, he was no saint, I’m sure, but beautifully complex and human, just like the rest of us.”
“It was exciting to come to Scotland to work on a Scottish film that was set in Scotland. I was excited to swing swords, get on horses, get dirty and have fun.
“You have such varied geography and topography in Scotland. You can travel three hours from Glasgow to the Highlands and you are in completely different setting. It’s like Lord of the Rings.
“A favourite day of mine was when we shot at Talisker Bay on Skye. We travelled for a couple of hours and came out into this valley which opened up into a sandy beach with huge cliffs on either side, with rolling waves and waterfalls falling off the top of mountains and crashing into the water. When I saw it I just thought it was perfect majesty. It was pretty something.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “Outlaw King brings the story of one of Scotland’s most well-known figures to life and it is fantastic to see this film developed and produced with top Scottish creative talent.
“Thanks to Creative Scotland funding we were able to encourage Outlaw King to film and base its production here, which has helped one of Scotland’s most prolific production companies build an important relationship with Netflix and given trainees an incredible start in the industry.
“As the largest feature film to be made here to date, Outlaw King shows we have the stories, locations, skills and support to make world-class productions in Scotland.