There was a very intimate feeling in the film – like you were really there. Was that something to do with the way Ridley made the film?
Russell Crowe: Ridley shoots in such a way that he doesn’t impact the actors. He matrixes a room or a field and he uses multiple cameras – everybody is playing at the same time. He doesn’t shoot one half then turn around and shoot the other half. He tries to shoot the world as it exists which means you get great responses.
Oscar [who plays King John] was saying there is even room to ad lib a bit.
Russell Crowe: Ridley is all about great ideas. There were things in the earlier drafts that were very attractive to Oscar Issac and he came to me and talked about them. I told him that Ridley is not going to stop you from doing something great. That’s what I told Oscar, that he is that rare beast who actually loves actors. He is in awe of the bravery of actors. If you are prepared to go to a certain place on his behalf than you will only get appreciation from Ridley.
The Robin Hood story has been told many times. Were you interested in the role as an actor because you could show how the character developed?
Russell Crowe: There are a lot of questions in pretty much every cinematic Robin Hood that never get answered. The filmmakers take it for granted that you know a certain amount about the story and they go from there. We weren’t really interested in what people think they know about Robin Hood. We wanted to wipe the slate clean and start again.
You were instrumental in a lot of the casting. Did you know all the Merry Men before the film?
Russell Crowe: My core thing is that I’ve worked with them and I know who they are. I’ve been in pressurised situations with them and I know how they cope. That was my attitude when I talked to Ridley. You can throw all the A list names at me that you want but I’m not interested, I’m interested in a team.
I’m interested in guys who will take on a physical challenge and spend whatever time is required.
I also need all the Merry Men to have a musical background and Ridley is like ‘Why?’ My thing was if you spend time in the army as these men do, if you are on this battlefield of brutality, then you have to know how to celebrate. If you have made it through that day without an arrow through a part of your body dipped in horse urine – because it poisons your blood and you die – or cleaved in two by some knight in armour on horseback. If you get to the end of the day then you have to know how to celebrate and then get ready to do it again the next day.
This is a film everyone can watch as violence is not too extreme – was that deliberate?
Russell Crowe: Deliberate on Ridley’s behalf and something we discussed. It would be very easy for him to revisit the same territory as Gladiator and severe heads and limbs here and there, but ultimately there is such a strong moral core to this story that you want kids to be able to see it.