Braveheart was a massive hit at the time that it was released, to largely critical and commercial success.
Portraying the story of William Wallace and his fight for the freedom of his people from the tyrannical rule of the dastardly English!
There has been very mixed response to the film in the years since it was released, some people still love it and see it as a true classic, others think it was over-rated hype that hasn’t aged at all well, and some don’t like that the portrayal of Wallace and the other characters was not necessarily 100% accurate historically. *
Mel Gibson’s own production company, Icon Productions, had a fair bit of difficulty in raising enough money to make the film, even though Gibson himself was to star in it.
Warner Bros was willing to fund the project on the condition that Gibson sign up for another Lethal Weapon sequel.
Gibson refused and Paramount only agreed to American and Canadian distribution of the film after it partnered with 20th Century Fox for the international rights.
The film’s budget was estimated to be $72 million.
The crew of the film spent a total of six weeks shooting on location in Scotland, but the major battle scenes were shot in Ireland and used members of the Irish Army Reserves as extras.
T0 lower the cost of the film, Gibson had the same extras (up to 1,600 in some scenes,) portray both armies.
The reservists had been given special permission to grow bears and swap their military uniforms for medieval clothing.
When asked by a local why the Battle of Stirling Bridge was filmed on an open plain, Gibson answered that “the bridge got in the way”. “Aye,” the local answered. “That’s what the English found.”
The film is know in Scotland for its historical inaccuracies.
In the film, William Wallace is shown as a man of humble background who goes to war after the love of his life is murdered by English invaders.
In reality, he was part of the lesser Scottish nobility.
His family was too obscure to leave detailed information about his origins, but we know enough to get a picture of his lifestyle.
He was not actually raised as a farmer, he was raised to be a minor noble.
He also trained in the arts of war from a young age.
Also, in the film, Wallace is show besieging and capturing York.
This never happened.
He did, however, invade Northern England.
Many Scots were offended by the film’s portrayal of Robert the Bruce, who–along with William Wallace–is considered a national hero.
One of the film’s weary extras reportedly mistook one of Mel Gibson’s children on the set for an errand boy, and asked him to bring a cup of tea. Gibson was within earshot, and nodded and whispered to his son, “Go get it.”
Love it or loathe it the film certainly had a big impact, and the fact that it still gets discussed today, it still gets lampooned in TV and film and it won a Best Picture Oscar means that Mel Gibson did something right in the filming of this epic.
Join me as we look back at some interesting facts surrounding the filming of Braveheart and the subsequent response by critics and general public alike.
1. Father and Son were very close in age
James Cosmo and Brendan Gleeson were just 7 years apart in age when they played the parts of father and son in Braveheart.
That wasn’t the only issue with age either.
Although Mel Gibson was nearly 40, his character was supposed to be in his 20s.
Mel Gibson initially turned down the role of William Wallace, as he felt he was too old for the part.
However, Paramount Pictures would only finance the film if Gibson played the lead role, so he agreed.
2. Not everything in Braveheart may have happened
When interviewed in 2009, Mel Gibson admitted that a lot of Braveheart was heavily fictitious.
He says that the changes were made for dramatic purposes only.
The film is set from 1280 to 1314.
Mel Gibson has said he would give $5.00 to anyone who could spot the fake horses in the final film.
Reportedly he has not had to make good on the wager.
3. Mel Gibson and William Wallace were not quite the same age
When playing William Wallace, a character who was supposed to be in his 20s, the lead character was played by Mel Gibson who was almost 40 at the time. That’s nearly double William Wallace’s age. Mel Gibson even turned down the role initially because he felt he was too old to play the part, but Paramount only agreed to finance the film if Gibson took on the lead role himself.
4. What do you do when a bridge gets in the way?
The Battle of Stirling Bridge was filmed on an open plain, and when asked by a local why this was, Mel Gibson responded by saying “the bridge got in the way”. The response from the local? “Aye. That’s what the English found” Brilliant!
5. It’s a good job Ireland didn’t have to suddenly call upon its army reserves!
Many of the extras for the battle scenes in Braveheart were sourced from the F.C.A, the reserve Irish army, and as many as 1,600 of them were used during filming!
6. Some of the extras forgot what century they were in!
When filming some of the battle scenes, some of the extras forgot to remove their glasses and their wrist watches. This led to some of the epic battle scenes having to be re-shot!
7. Sometimes visual effects can be too good
At one point, Mel Gibson was investigated by an animal welfare organisation as they were very concerned about the treatment of the horses on set. Mel Gibson tried convincing them that what they had seen were fake horses that were being used, and only after one of his assistants provided video evidence from the filming did they believe him!
8. Even Mel Gibson recognises how good those fake horses were
The fake horses used in the film weighed 200 pounds (14 stone) and had nitrogen cylinders in built to propel them forwards at 30mph on 20-foot tracks. Mel Gibson has offered $5 to anyone who can identify the fake horses and as far as we know has never had to pay out!
9. Braveheart’s wife’s name may have been changed in the film to avoid confusion
William Wallace’s wife was actually called Marian, but it is thought that the name was changed to Murran in the movie to avoid any possible confusion with Maid Marion from Robin Hood. To be fair, it is confusing having to people in two completely different films but with the same name, so it’s good to know they respect the intelligence levels of their audience!
10. The finished film was originally intended to be much more graphic
The original finished film had a lot more graphic violence in it than the version that ended up in the cinemas. Fearing that the film would get an adults-only certificate, Mel Gibson personally edited the film so that the most graphic parts of the film happened off screen so that he could appease the censors and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). Having seen Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, it’s probably a good thing he edited the film so it wasn’t too brutal!
11. James Bond almost played King Edward I
The part of King Edward I was offered to Sir Sean Connery, but he turned down the role as he was already committed to starring in Just Cause.
12. Mel Gibson could have missed receiving his Oscar
Just two weeks before Mel Gibson won the Best Picture Oscar for Braveheart, Mel Gibson was rushed in to hospital and had to undergo an operation for an emergency appendectomy. Reports that during the operation he was heard to cry out “Freeeedom” are unconfirmed!
13. It was a tiring project for its star and director
Mel Gibson has said that shooting Braveheart which saw him on location for 105 days in a row was more physically demanding than filming three instalments of the Lethal Weapon franchise put together!
14. Not everyone is keen on the film
In 2005, Empire magazine voted Braveheart to be the worst film ever to win a Best Picture Oscar, proving that not everyone agrees on what makes a good film!
15. The main character could have been portrayed very differently
A number of other big name actors were considered for the star role of William Wallace before Mel Gibson accepted to perform the role himself. How different could the film have been if Daniel Day Lewis, Liam Neeson, Christopher Lambert, Jeff Bridges or even Robin Williams had been offered, and accepted the role?
16. Scotland doesn’t appear in the film that much!
Contrary to the fact that the whole story is based in Scotland, only a few scenes were actually filmed in Scotland itself, with the majority of the film actually being shot on location in Ireland!
17. There are definitely a few historical inaccuracies!
Princess Isabella didn’t actually set foot on English soil until at least 1308 in real life. This means it would have actually been impossible for her to have warned William Wallace about the impending battle that was set to occur at Falkirk.
18. Individual frames were deliberately cut from the battle scenes
In many of the battle sequences in Braveheart, individual frames were cut from the film to give those sequences a more jarring, distorted and unsettling look to them. Do you think that this was achieved and that the end result was effective? Or did you never really notice?
19. Mel Gibson’s horse didn’t like the actor’s shouting
Whenever Mel Gibson yelled his lines in certain scenes where he appears with his horse, his horse would try and bolt as it didn’t like the yelling and shouting! This made some scenes difficult to shoot, but it was also felt that it added to the natural intensity needed with these scenes so was actually seen as a positive thing overall.
20. Not everything you see is make-up
Tommy Flannagan’s scar is 100% real. It is known as a “Glasgow Smile” or “Glasgow Grin”.
Flannagan got this scar one night when leaving a pub and he was attacked, the attackers tried to rob him and cut his face from ear to ear in the attack leaving him with the scar.
21. Mel Gibson gave up several roles for this one
Due to his commitment to Braveheart and wanting to make it the best he could, Mel Gibson turned down the roles of James Bond in GoldenEye, Simon Templar in The Saint and Harvey “Two Face” Dent in Batman Forever. Do you think he made the right choice? Can you picture him as Bond in GoldenEye?
22. They were clearly very careful when filming the battles
When filming the battle sequences for Braveheart, they obviously listened to their health and safety advisors, as they spent months filming the scenes and they were very intense shoots with hundreds of actors on set, yet the worst injury suffered on set was a broken nose!
23. The massive wooden gate actually was a massive wooden gate!
A lot of the time, movie props are cheap replicas designed to look like the real thing, but the huge wooden gate in Braveheart was just that, and it weighed seven tons after the crew built it from scratch! Many of the other props were also purpose built and as realistic as possible.
24. It took hours to do the make-up
In some scenes there are upwards of 1,400 extras on set at once. This meant upwards of 1,400 people to get through make-up and wardrobe and would take upwards of 4 hours before filming could begin for the day! That’s a lot of work to do on a daily basis but at least they were all kept busy!
25. What did Wallace shout before the battle of Stirling?
Ever wondered what William Wallace shouted before the Battle of Stirling? It was “Alba gu brath”, which roughly translated means “Scotland forever”!
And what do the cast look like now?
Gibson was one of the hottest properties in Hollywood at the time and could seemingly do no worng.
He has been in the limelight for the wrong reasons at times, including being accused of antisemitism.
He has stayed busy over the years and still appears in front and behind the cameras.
Sophie Marceau has never hit the heights of what her career hinted at, and she seemed to disappear a bit in to the background.
She still appears on our screens from time to time, but not at the top billed star that everyone would expect and not in any major blockbuster hits.
We guess even being in a massive blockbuster doesn’t guarantee success.
Playing Robert the Bruce in Braveheart, Angus MacFadyen has gone on to be quite prolific, regularkly gracing both the big and small screens.
He is soon to play the part of Robert the Bruce again in another production!
Following Braveheart, Patrick McGoohan, who had shot to fame orginally as The Prisoner, only appeared in a handful more productions before retiring from acting in 2002 and then sadly passing away in 2009.
Catherine McCormack is another actor who has remained very busy over the years and regularly appears on the big and small screen, in such varied productions as 28 Weeks Later to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock.
Playing Braveheart’s friend, Hamish, Brendan Gleeson has been a very busy actor appearing in cinemas for years in various roles, and on the small screen regularly, too. Gleeson has become known to a generation of Harry Potter fans as the slightly mad auror, Mad-eye Moody!
With nearly 200 acting credits to his name, James Cosmo is never far from our screens, either on the TV or at the box office, and is recognisable to a legion of Game of Thrones fans as Jeor Mormont.
So what did you think of Braveheart? Were you a big fan? Were the tears streaming down your face as he cried out the agonised “Freeeedom” at the end of the film? Let us know your thoughts in the comments as always.