The writers of the original script, Ethan Reiff and Cy Voris, recently spoke about the new Russell Crowe movie:
“Nottingham [the original name of the film] was about us both wanting to see a new and different version of a classic old story retold. The truth is the movie Ridley Scott made doesn’t have all that much to do with the script we sold to Universal, in the midst of a bidding war with various other Hollywood studios, about 3 years ago. Our script was told from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s point of view (thereby the title), and Russell Crowe signed on to play the part of the Sheriff, who was the hero of our screenplay.
There are a few things remaining in the movie which had their origin in our script, like including Eleanor of Aquitaine (mother of Richard the Lionhearted and Prince, later King, John) as a key character in a Robin Hood movie for the first time (at least that I know of), plus the movie would never have been made to being with if Russell Crowe hadn’t signed on to play the Sheriff in our original script. I guess for us, without having seen the movie, it’s a mix of triumph and frustration. Triumph because we got the ball rolling that led to a massive medieval period piece being made with an excellent cast by arguably one of the greatest directors in movie history, but also frustration in that the world will never see the original movie we wrote. But we did get paid, so I’m not complaining. Once they bought it, Universal had the right to do whatever they wanted with our script.”
As readers of this blog will know, it was the Walt Disney movie The Story of Robin Hood (1952), with its screenplay by Lawrence E. Watkin that first used Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) as a key character in a film about the legendary outlaw. The legendary queen was played by the tall, stately, velvet voiced, Martitia Hunt (1900-1969) who was quite simply ‘made for the role.’ But we admirers of this quality Disney live-action movie are used to it getting over looked aren’t we!
As for Universal’s re-writing of the screen play to a more traditional one - I think that they are quite simply playing safe. I and many other Robin Hood enthusiasts-I am sure-would have preferred to have seen a refreshingly new angle to the same tired old plot, but would the general public? What do you think?