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OUTLAW KING’s Battles Are More Brutal Than GAME OF THRONES

Despite being filled with ice dragons, undead wights, and possible mermen, Game of Thrones is a series heavily inspired by historical events. Just ask George R.R. Martin about the real story behind the Red Wedding. It was based on a few different events from Scottish history, including the Black Dinner in which the King James II of Scotland invited the Earl of Douglas and his brother to dine at their court, only to turn around and execute them before the main course was served. Long story short, Scottish history was absolutely brutal, full of grisly melees, protracted wars, and bloody battles, the likes of which will soon be seen in Netflix’s excellent new historical drama Outlaw King.

Directed by David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water), Outlaw King tells the story of Robert the Bruce (played by Chris Pine), one of Scotland’s national heroes and a warrior famous for waging a guerilla war against the King of England to win Scotland’s independence. But while Robert the Bruce has achieved mythic status in Scottish history, the events that happened were very real, and the reality of warfare during the 14th century was bleak, horrifying, and visceral. These are qualities that Mackenzie and his collaborators sought to highlight on the big screen in all their uncomfortable glory. The clash of steel, the crunch of bones, the sprays of blood–they aren’t glamorous in Mackenzie’s portrayal of medieval warfare; rather, they induce the same stomach-churning dread and discomfort that I felt during Game of Thrones‘ Battle of the Bastards. The result is a lot of grueling, grisly sequences that hammer home just how harrowing this experience must have been.

In order to find out how Mackenzie and company brought it to life, I traveled to Scotland where I sat down with him and stars Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Tony Curran, and Billy Howle at Borthwick Castle, which dates all the way back to the 15th century. In addition to doing some casual archery and falconry, I chatted with the film’s stars about how they approached these brutal battle scenes, how they pulled off the film’s insanely ambitious 9-minute-long opening tracking shot (which makes True Detective look like Babytown Frolics), and much more.

Outlaw King comes to Netflix on November 9.

Images: Netflix

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