‘Robin Hood’

CAST: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and William Hurt. Directed by Ridley Scott.

BACK STORY: He steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Or does he?

Scott knows that audiences have their preconceived notions of the Robin Hood legend. “It’s so much a part of the original English culture and everyone knows it,” the British filmmaker says. That’s presented the “Gladiator” director with opportunities and obstacles as he and five-time collaborator Crowe revisit Sherwood Forest.

Scott’s “Robin Hood” carries no small weight on its shoulders. The film represents a steep investment (close to $200 million) for Universal Pictures and Relativity Media, and after Universal’s disastrous 2009 slate, “Robin Hood” could help reverse the studio’s fortunes.


The more immediate challenge, though, is to breathe new life into a character at the center of countless Hollywood interpretations -- including 1938’s Errol Flynn version and Kevin Costner’s 1991 update. “You can ask a child on the street who Paul McCartney is, and they don’t know,” Scott says. “But a child of 8 knows who Robin Hood is.”

Scott is setting his film in the late 12th century amid the Crusades, with Robin Hood (Crowe) a mercenary for Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) returning to England. Like his fellow soldiers of fortune, the film’s titular archer is without initial purpose. “They have no wives and no kids and no homes, so they become bandits and vagrants. It’s the legacy of war.” Not surprisingly, Robin Hood undergoes a crisis of faith, even as his love life (Cate Blanchett plays Maid Marian) is faring a bit better.

“There’s a very strong destiny story in this,” says Scott, who is collaborating with his “Gladiator” cinematographer, editor and production designer. “In the first 20 minutes of the film, you’ll start to see a new man -- a leader of the pack.”

FILM CLIP: Once called " Nottingham,” the movie’s production and release date were delayed as the script was rewritten and Crowe got in fighting shape.


-- John Horn

NEXT: “Iron Man 2"