Long-time readers of this blog may remember me mentioning the 1981 John Boorman film Excalibur from time to time. Here I am on a trip to Ireland a few years back, having a fanboy moment at Powerscourt waterfall, one of the iconic locations used in the film.
Excalibur was what opened my eyes to the richness of the Arthurian legends, so I would never have written Here Lies Arthur without it. But I might never have written anything at all, because it also opened my eyes to a lot of other things – it led me to seek out John Boorman’s earlier films, like Point Blank and Deliverance, which in turn led to me to lots of other great film makers; it got me reading Malory and Tennyson and Wolfram von Eschenbach and T.S.Eliot and T.H.White: it introduced me to the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites, which in turn led to me back to the Romantics and on the Symbolists and thence to Picasso and the whole of Modern Art… In many ways, Excalibur was what I had instead of university. Perhaps if it hadn’t been made I would have seized on some other book or movie as inspiration at that age – but perhaps I wouldn’t. Anyway, my Life’n’Work would have been very different without it.
When I wrote my own version of the King Arthur story in Here Lies Arthur I knew I had to avoid the fantastical, mediaeval fantasy-world that the movie conjures up or I would just produce an Excalibur pastiche, so that’s how my Arthur ended up so resolutely un-magical and as 5th Century as I could make him. But by way of a tribute I started and ended the book with the same images with which Excalibur begins and ends; riders in a burning wood, and the ship dwindling on a twilit sea.
I mention all this now (and will probably be mentioning it again in the coming weeks) because I’ve just found out about a project called Behind The Sword In The Stone, a documentary film about the making of Excalibur by two Irish film makers working under the banner of Mossy Hare Productions. They’ve managed to track down and interview most of the surviving members of the cast, as well as John Boorman himself.
Even if you don’t share my love of the film (and there are many who don’t) it should make a fascinating documentary. I’d kind of forgotten just how many careers it started: Patrick Stewart, Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, Cherie Lunghi and (I think) Nigel Terry all made their screen debuts in Excalibur, and it was a fairly early screen role for Helen Mirren too. Here’s a sneak peek:
Anyway, having shot all this great stuff, these Mossy Hares are now seeking funds for post production work – editing, sound mixing, voice-over recording etc. They have an Indiegogo campaign page where all donations will be gratefully received, and various perks in the form of signed photos, DVDs etc are available to people who donate. I shall certainly be kicking in something, and I hope other Excalibur fans and lovers of cinema will too – I REALLY want to see this movie!